Nepali climber and famous rescuer Mingma Gyabu Sherpa has etched his name in mountaineering history by achieving multiple Guinness World Records. The 34-year-old mountaineering guide and renowned rescuer has once again stunned the world by conquering K2, the second-highest peak on Earth, for the sixth consecutive time.
Mingma made history on January 16, 2021, as part of the trailblazing team of 10 Nepali mountaineers who accomplished the unprecedented feat of ascending K2 during the harsh winter season. Before it, Mingma Gyabu Sherpa holds the distinction of being the youngest climber to have successfully summited all 14 peaks above 8000 meters. His remarkable feat of scaling both Mount Everest (8848 m) and K2 (8622 m) in the shortest time span of 61 days earned him his first world record in 2019. Such achievements highlight his exceptional skill, determination, and relentless pursuit of excellence in the field of mountaineering.
Despite his extraordinary accomplishments, Mingma remains grounded and modest about his success. He has dedicated himself to his profession with utmost sincerity and has not chased records but instead focused on excelling in his field. His passion for climbing, paired with his unwavering commitment to technical prowess and positive environmental stewardship, earned him the prestigious Union of Asian Alpine Association (UAAA) Sherpa Category Piolet d’Or Asia Award in 2019, making him the first Nepali to receive this honor in mountaineering.
Mingma Gyabu Sherpa was born on May 16, 1989, in the picturesque village of Sermthang, Lele, Taplejung, where he experienced a childhood typical of Sherpa children in the highlands. He balanced his daily routine between attending school, helping his parents with farming, and gathering firewood. Despite facing hardships and challenges, Mingma’s village lacked a conducive learning environment, and the tumultuous conflict period further disrupted educational opportunities.
Like other teenagers in the village, Mingma Gyabu Sherpa left his hometown in 2007 at the age of 16 and ventured to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. Initially, he had planned to stay in Kathmandu for a short while and then return to continue his studies. However, fate had different plans for him, as the schools remained closed, and air travel was disrupted, leaving him stranded in the bustling city.
Undeterred by the circumstances, Mingma decided to make the best of his situation and found work as a tea house porter. At just 16/17 years old, it was no easy task for him to carry heavy loads of up to 35 kilograms for tourists trekking in the scenic Pun Hill area. Despite the challenges, he persevered, realizing that he had little choice but to continue in this line of work.
After gaining some experience as a porter, Mingma’s dedication and passion for mountaineering caught the attention of others in the field. He eventually secured a job as an assistant guide, which opened up new opportunities for him. In 2009, he received a golden chance to join the prestigious Manaslu Expedition team as part of the support staff, where he spent a valuable month at the Manaslu base camp.
Staying at the Manaslu base camp proved to be a turning point for Mingma as it became akin to attending a mountaineering school. He absorbed a wealth of knowledge about mountaineering and gained the courage to aspire to climb mountains himself.
Upon his return from Manaslu, Mingma set his sights on another great challenge – climbing Mount Everest. He approached his uncle, a seasoned climber with three successful Everest summits, requesting the opportunity to climb the world’s highest peak. Initially, he had hoped to attempt Everest in 2011, during Nepal Tourism Year, expecting more opportunities with increased tourist arrivals. However, fate intervened once again, and he received the chance to join the Mt. Everest expedition team a year earlier, in 2010.
Although deeply passionate about education, Mingma faced a difficult decision as the timeframe of the Everest climb coincided with his SLC (School Leaving Certificate) examinations. Putting his dreams of climbing Everest above all else, he made the tough choice to leave behind the examination of four subjects in his SLC. Climbing Everest had been his dream since he started trekking, knowing that achieving such a feat would open numerous doors in the mountaineering world. While he regretted the decision to leave his SLC exam, he viewed it as a challenge, affirming his determination to learn and grow through his mountaineering endeavors.
In the spring season of 2010, Mingma Gyabu Sherpa achieved a remarkable feat as he successfully ascended Mt. Everest from the Northern Side. It was a milestone moment for him, as he had limited mountaineering experience with just one month spent at the Manaslu base camp. Despite his relative inexperience, Mingma was excited and determined to reach the summit of the world’s highest peak. Upon reaching the top, he realized the boundless possibilities that lay ahead and felt that his path had broadened in the world of mountaineering.
The successful ascent of Mt. Everest marked a turning point in Mingma’s life. He was promoted from an assistant guide to a Mt. Everest climbing guide, which significantly advanced his career. Reflecting on his journey, Mingma acknowledged that without the opportunity to climb Everest, he might have been compelled to seek work in the Gulf States due to the lack of suitable study options and opportunities in Nepal. Climbing Mt. Everest was not only a personal achievement but also a stepping stone to a fulfilling career.
Following his Everest success, Mingma understood the importance of continuous learning and safety in mountaineering. He underwent basic and advanced training provided by the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), emphasizing that such training significantly reduces risks during expeditions. His dedication to enhancing his skills and knowledge led him to become a popular climbing guide, with successful climbs of Cho Oyu and Ama Dablam in 2010 and subsequent ascents of Mt. Everest from the Northern Side in 2011 and 2012, bringing his total Everest summits to six.
In 2019, Mingma joined Nirmal Purja’s expedition team to take on the ambitious challenge of climbing eight mountains above 8000 meters. This remarkable endeavor also saw him become the youngest mountaineer to achieve the feat of climbing all 14 mountains above 8000 meters.
While he now holds two world records, Mingma humbly asserts that his focus has always been on doing his job honestly rather than seeking records. He values the safety and well-being of others, refusing to compromise on their lives in pursuit of records.
Mingma’s dedication to mountaineering extends beyond climbing mountains. He is also renowned for his life-saving rescue missions in the mountains. One unforgettable incident was his daring helicopter rescue mission on Dhaulagiri Mountain, likely the highest helicopter flight rescue ever. In 2013, when 18 climbers, including Spaniards, were trapped in Dhaulagiri due to deteriorating weather conditions, Mingma and three Spanish climbers from the Everest Base Camp boarded a helicopter to undertake the rescue mission. Despite facing challenging circumstances and limited technology, they successfully evacuated the trapped climbers, showcasing Mingma’s selfless dedication to helping those in need.
Mingma Gyabu Sherpa’s extraordinary journey exemplifies his unwavering passion for mountaineering, his commitment to continuous improvement, and his selfless devotion to the well-being of others. He stands as an inspiration to the mountaineering community and beyond, a testament to what can be achieved through dedication, perseverance, and a genuine desire to make a positive impact on the world.
In a groundbreaking rescue operation at an unprecedented altitude, Mingma Gyabu Sherpa demonstrated his extraordinary skill and courage. The mission involved the use of helicopters in rescue operations from extreme heights, a feat never attempted before. When a group of trapped Spaniards urgently needed help, they urged Mingma to undertake the challenging longline rescue.
Longline rescue involved Mingma jumping from a helicopter while securely attached to a long line, enabling him to access terrains where a helicopter alone could not reach. Working alongside a Spaniard, they took turns in the helicopter to reach the third camp at an astonishing altitude of 7,400 meters. Meanwhile, two other Spaniards made their way on foot. Additionally, a team of three Nepali Sherpas was deployed on the ground to assist in the search.
At around 8,000 meters, the rescue team encountered the trapped individuals. Tragically, one of the Spaniards had succumbed to the harsh conditions, but Mingma and his team managed to save the life of the surviving Nepali, guide Keshav Gurung of Gorkha. These trapped individuals had endured four days without food and water at such high altitudes, making the rescue operation a race against time and immense odds.
Mingma’s exceptional skills and dedication to saving lives extended beyond Nepal’s borders. He also conducted rescue operations in the challenging mountains of Pakistan. Despite the lack of a dedicated rescue team in Nepal, Mingma remains committed to helping those in need whenever possible. He emphasizes the importance of a well-trained and specialized rescue team, as it could save numerous lives in the unforgiving mountain terrains.
One of Mingma’s rescue missions drew international attention and eventually evolved into a film project. Originally planned as a documentary about “dead bodies’ recovery” in the mountains, the project shifted to focus on rescue efforts. The film showcased the real events and challenges faced during their two-month-long rescue mission, during which they saved an astounding 52 lives, including some villagers.
Throughout his 13-year mountaineering journey, Mingma has encountered numerous ups and downs. There were moments when he narrowly escaped death and times when he celebrated triumphs after successful climbs. One particularly memorable incident occurred at Nangla Parwat in Pakistan, where he faced a life-threatening situation that took almost a week to recover from.
In line with their plan, they set out from the base camp and began the ascent towards Camp 1. However, they encountered challenging conditions along the way. The weather did not cooperate, and crucially, the rope between Camp 1 and Camp 2 had not been hung, adding to the difficulties they faced. At one point, they encountered a formidable 145-meter rock formation known as the ‘King of Wall.’ As they ascended, a sudden snowfall obscured their vision, making the situation even more treacherous. Faced with these obstacles, they decided to retreat.
During the descent, disaster nearly struck for Mingma. He slipped and was carried away by the snow, losing control and being swept about five meters down. Thankfully, he managed to grasp onto a small piece of ice with his little finger, preventing a potentially catastrophic fall of up to 2,000 meters. Reflecting on the harrowing experience, Mingma shared that he couldn’t sleep for about a week afterward. The ordeal felt like a surreal dream, especially coming back to the city after the intense climb.
For Mingma, mountaineering is more than a profession; it is a passion, and a way to support his family. Climbing has brought him recognition and acclaim, and he considers the records achieved not only personal achievements but also accomplishments for the country. Despite the significant contributions of climbers like him to Nepal’s mountain tourism and international reputation, Mingma laments that the government does not adequately support or care for the welfare of climbers. He believes that climbers, as ambassadors for Nepal’s mountain tourism, have made substantial contributions to the country’s reputation and development. However, their condition remains deplorable, leaving Mingma restless and concerned about the future of mountaineers in Nepal.
All Photos from Mingma’s Facebook profile.
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