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Shippensburg students prepare for Himalayan adventure

prepare for Himalayan adventure

53d8f3b1899be.preview-620Pole Steeple in Pine Grove Furnace State Park doesn’t quite resemble the snow-capped peak of Mount Everest, but the four Shippensburg University students climbing to the rocky hilltop Tuesday were preparing for a Himalayan adventure.

The students won’t actually be climbing Everest, but they hope to climb Mount Manaslu, the Earth’s eighth-highest mountain, during their mid-October to mid-November trip. Even though the trip involves some of the world’s most intimidating climbing — including steep, uphill climbs in thin air and bitter cold — they just couldn’t pass up such a unique experience.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” senior Sara Mullen said. “It’s definitely going to be challenging, but it’s going to be exciting as well.”

Himalayan trip

53d8f3ab9235a.preview-620This story of a Midstate excursion to Nepal actually began on the highest mountain in South America. It was on the formidable Aconcagua that Shippensburg University graduate Rick Rovegno met Tendi Sherpa, a Nepalese mountain summit guide who has traveled 10 times to the summit of Mount Everest.

As someone who has climbed mountains around the world, Rovegno wanted to give students from his alma mater a similar opportunity. He was concerned about keeping the students safe, however, until he met Tendi, whom he described as one of the best guides in the world.

“I trust him emphatically to watch over us, and monitor us, and make wise decisions about how far to push ourselves,” he said.

Tendi met with the students on the hike to Pole Steeple during a visit to the United States. Although the Appalachian Mountains are not as tall as the Himalayas, he believes local hiking will prepare the students for the trip. In fact, there is a saying in Nepal that puts the challenge of climbing a large mountain in perspective, he said: “the mountain is just a hill.”

The students also expressed trust in Tendi, and even though some said their parents are worried, they said they are looking forward to the challenge.

53d8f3c32894f.preview-620“I think the perseverance it will take to finish it will give me confidence as I move on to my career,” senior Shelby Coghill said.

Tom Allison, a graduate student, is also motivated by a desire to see something different and impactful.

“Mainly, I’m just looking for something that will blow my hair back,” Allison said.

The students also have reasons for undertaking the trek that are related to their college majors. Coghill, an international studies major, has already experienced Dominican and Spanish culture, and is hoping to gain a new perspective on life. Allison and senior Julia Saintz are geography majors, so they are looking forward to the opportunity to see different rock formations.

Tendi Sherpa

53d8f3bb9467f.preview-620There are risks to climbing the Himilayas, a lesson learned when 16 Nepalese guides died in an avalanche on Mount Everest in April. Tendi has come across dead bodies on the trail that serve as a warning of what happens when people get caught in bad weather and get lost, particularly when they travel alone, he said.

Also, the highest peaks of the Himilayas can get very cold, he said — so cold that he recommend climbers going to Mount Everest bring gear capable of handling minus 40 degree Celsius temperatures.

While some climbers bring compasses — and now GPS devices — to keep them from getting lost, the best way to stay safe is still to have someone with you with Himalayan climbing experience, he said. If that’s the case, there are probably few people who better qualify than Tendi.

Tendi is part of the Sherpa people, an ethnic group that lives among the Nepali mountains and took on the role of Himalayan tour guides when expeditions to the mountain range first became popular in the 1920s. There are two ways to get to his home village from the Nepali capital of Kathmandu: an 11-day bus ride, or a 45-minute plane ride followed by a 7-day climb through mountainous terrain.

“It’s up and down, up and down, and sometimes your knees get confused,” he said.

He completed his first mountain climbing expedition when he was hired as a porter at 13 years old, carrying 100 pounds of cargo for 12 hours per day on a 24-day trip. His teenage experience includes climbing over the summit of a 17,000-foot mountain barefoot in below-freezing temperatures because he did not have the proper shoes along for the experience.

While that experience was painful, he was inspired by the scenery when he reached the summit of a 21,000-foot high mountain at age 14, and it convinced him that he wanted to be a summit guide.

He first climbed Mount Everest as part of a cleaning expedition in 2003 at the age of 19, and climbed to the summit twice in one day in 2007. He’s learned eight languages without any formal education, and is currently in the process of learning Spanish.

While Rovegno and the Shippensburg students — the four attending the hike to Pole Steeple and a fifth student, Will Parisi — won’t be going to Mount Everest, Tendi will take them to the 26,700-foot Mount Manaslu. The students aren’t planning to go to the summit, but they are planning to climb to 17,000 feet, and even higher if the students are feeling well, Rovegno said. At the 17,000-foot level, there is only about 50 percent of the oxygen at sea level, he said.

In addition to the climb to Mount Manaslu, Tendi called the trip “cultural trekking,” an opportunity to meet the native people and try local cuisine, much of which consists of rice, lentils, curry and hot chili peppers.

“The most important part is to explore the culture there, because we have a diversity of ethnic groups and different people,” he said.

The students will leave Oct. 20 and return Nov. 10, and Rovegno thanked Shippensburg University administration and faculty for having the flexibility to allow the students to take the trip during the semester. He also thanked M&T Bank for being a corporate sponsor to help the students finance the trip.


What People Say

  • Tendi is one of the most amazing and talented people that I have ever met. He is an inspirational leader who successfully led our team to the summit of Everest on May 23, 2016. As a 25-year-old girl, I was one of the youngest of our group and a bit apprehensive of the enormity of our expedition, but I have to say that every step of the way I felt safe and in good hands with Tendi leading our team.

    From the moment I first was introduced to Tendi I had total trust and respect in him as a guide. His knowledge for the mountain and understanding how to communicate effectively with the different people and nationalities was remarkable. The summit is one thing but the climb down is where things can go wrong. I was very nervous for the descent but both Tendi, and my personal Sherpa Pasang calmed my nerves and assured me that we would get down safely.

    Our group had 100% summit success rate…but for Tendi success wasn’t the summit; success was getting our whole group down safely and being able to hug at advanced base camp complete with huge smiles on our faces. Tendi is a very special person that has left a huge impression on me and my life. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to climb with such man as Tendi!

  • Dear Tendi,

    I just wanted to say thank you to you one more time for this amazing experience!

    From the moment we all met in the USA I knew it was going to be a once in a lifetime journey. Your knowledge of trekking and the trials assured me we were all in great hands and I so much enjoyed learning about Nepal. Thank you for letting me pester you with all sorts of questions and teaching (Dr.) Sara and I (and the rest) some nepali and Sherpa- it was so fun!

    You are such an inspiration of a kind person who works so hard for their family.

    Your happy disposition is a pleasure to be around and always a reminder to smile :)

    I so greatly appreciate your sharing of Buddhism as well- I look forward to incorporating some practices in my own life and hope to study the philosophy more back in the States.

    Your business, trekking team, and family are all such a pleasure to be around- I’m so grateful we had the opportunity to meet them all (and I hope to see them again in the future!).

    Sara and I are excited to talk to our sorority (AST) about supporting your NGO in help of your village’s education and look forward to keeping in touch with you.

    Once more- thank you so much!

    -oh and your daughter is beautiful! I cannot wait to see her grow up to be another Ship grad :)

    All the best,

  • Tendi Sherpa is not only an amazing climbing guide, he is also an amazing friend. I first met Tendi in 2007 while climbing Everest. I was not feeling well while at camp III. Tendi and Ongdi Sherpa assisted me in reaching camp II safely. Later that night I developed severe HAPE. I credit Tendi and Ongdi for saving my life that night, and assisting me in my descent of the Khumbu Icefall, while being really sick.

    After Tendi reached the summit of Everest on May 16th 2007, he repeated an ascent with me on May 24th. I had recovered from HAPE in Namche Bazaar and was anxious to reach the summit before the monsoon came in. We climbed hard and fast. I have never met anyone with more strength and energy than Tendi Sherpa and Willie Beneges. We reached the summit of Everest 5 hours and 45 minutes after leaving camp IV then descended all the way to camp II in a single push.

    I would climb any mountain in the world with Tendi. He has become a close friend and also serves as a board member on an organization that I founded- Helping Assist Nepal’s Disabled (H.A.N.D.) Tendi has a huge heart and love for people. He is devoted to helping others in Nepal to have a better life.

    Brian smith
    Jacksonville, Oregon, USA

  • “We just summited Aconcagua, the first Nepali and the first Russian female to summit via Polish Glacier route. Tendi turned to me and said: “Now you do not need a guide to climb Aconcagua.” Ha! Tendi raised the bar!

    Thank you, dai, for bringing me closer to my aspiration of climbing unguided and unsupported; for making me a better climber and a better human being; leading me to great heights both mountains and spiritual.

    In the presence of Tendi Sherpa, one will find sound guidance, risk assessment, decision making, safety priority, and the highest level of expertise. Tendi is a true guide at heart, phenomenal climber and a beautiful human being.
    Thank you for your guidance and your friendship, Tendi!”

    Olya Lapina, entrepreneur, climber
    Sanfrancisco, USA

  • I reached the summit of Mount Everest in May 2012 and Tendi Sherpa, with his experience of 10 previous summits, was crucial in such an accomplishment.

    During my stay in the Himalayas, I asked Tendi lots of questions about his culture, religion, etc. Maybe my questions were very silly, considering I belong to the Occidental World. It´s such a different culture! But I always found Tendi ready to share all his knowledge with humility and kindness.

    I had the opportunity to meet Tendi in a two-month expedition in the Himalayas. During that time I got to know a kindhearted person who not only made me laugh with his jokes, but also had the right words in the most difficult situations I had to undergo.

    It`s amazing to see how many characteristics coexist in the same person; the innocence of a curious young man, the determination of an experienced climber, and the permanent good mood of a wise person.

    Even during the toughest moments of the expedition, there he was, with his wide smile, ready for a friendly chat.


    Hernan Carracedo
    Neuquén, Argentina

  • Tendi Sherpa was one of the leader/guides during my attempt to climb the highest point on the planet outside of the Himalayas – Aconcagua, in the Andes of Argentina, with my two sons and nephew in 2013. What a tremendous honour it was. Later that year, my daughter and I caught up with Tendi in Kathmandu, where we met his family and were shown his astonishing variety of well-kept climbing gear.

    Tendi is well-respected in the Sherpa and wider Nepalese communities, and other guides and climbers seek out his guidance. He has summited Everest with clients on multiple occasions, as well as other peaks around the world.

    His strength and perseverance, his knowledge and common sense, and his courage are legendary. His self-effacing nature, sparkling personality, politeness and sense of humour serve him well on the mountains, where things do not always go to plan.

    I would travel with him anywhere!

    From your friend

    Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

  • Truly one of the most fascinating individuals I’ve met in my life…meet Tendi Sherpa. He has an aura that captivates the attention of everyone within his reach and his personality glows so bright he could light a room. 

    Tendi has 10 summits of Mt. Everest (and counting). This season, he became the first Nepali to summit Aconcagua by the Polish Glacier Direct route. Congratulations Tendi! It was great to meet you! Good luck this May :)

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