Nepali Instructors

January 27, 2015

We’ve had our coldest day yet here in Phortse with clouds, light snow, and a bit of a breeze. We had essentially no snow over night, exactly what Old Karma forecast. Accu Weather had forecast 2-3 feet which would have been a problem for us. I saw Karma right at dusk last night as some flakes were coming down and asked him how much snow we’d get. I held my hand about 2 feet from the ground. “Nah!”, he said, laughing. I showed my hands about 6″ apart. “Nah!”, again laughing. I then used my fingers to indicated about 1 cm of snow. “Yah!”, and he added, “no problem”. He laughed his funny laugh and went on about his business. We’ve now decided that the best forecast is the Accu-Karma one. He assured me about an hour ago that there will be no more snow tonight. We’ll see.

When I first came to KCC in 2008 there were only 2 Nepali climbing instructors and about 16 westerners. Now we bring over about 5 or 6 western climbing instructors and employ close to 20 Nepali climbers. The skill level of our instructors has increased dramatically since those early years and continues to do so. Most of the Nepali instructors are Sherpas.

Sherpa is an ethnic group who speak Sherpa and whose last names are Sherpa. Those ethnic Sherpas were employed as porters, both low and high altitude, by the early British expeditions who explored the Himalayas. As a whole, the Sherpas performed exceptionally well in terms of strength, endurance, reliability, integrity, and good nature. As a result, they became the “go to” workers for expeditions. it was Tenzing Norgay Sherpa of Darjeeling, India, who made the first ascent of Everest with Edmund Hillary in 1953. Due to their exceptional performance, the term sherpa has become synonymous with high altitude porter or guide. However, there are many climbing sherpas (lower case “s”, high altitude worker) who are not Sherpas, and many Sherpas (ethnic group) who are not sherpas. Hope that all makes sense.

Many of our instructors and assistant instructors have summitted Everest multiple times. Danuru Sherpa, a man of nearly super human strength and endurance, has summitted 17 times but he’s certainly an exception. However, despite an Everest summit, some of our assistants are not as skilled as we’d prefer. Odd as it sounds, they climb very little-other than Everest each year. We’re doing our best to help increase the skill level of our assistants.

We do have a very strong core of lead climbing instructors and some very strong assistants. Several have been with KCC since its inception in 2004, beginning as students, moving to assistant instructors, and are now lead instructors. It’s been rewarding for all of us involved with KCC to see that progression, a major goal from the start.

We also provide an English language class each morning. Lhakpa Nuru Sherpa of Namche is the director of that program and also assistant director of KCC Nepal. He often runs our ceremonies and programs. We tease him about his Hollywood appearance and he laughingly refers to himself as the George Clooney of the Khumbu. He hires 4 young women each year to work with the English program. At the opening ceremony each year, he often announces to the students and climbing instructors that while we are out all day hiking the trails and at the ice climbs he will be back in Phortse drinking tea with the ladies. “You have your karma and I have mine”.

Despite the cold day I felt the need to shave and shower. I was pleased to see that there was no ice on the shower room floor indicating that the temperature was above freezing. I got my bucket of hot water, shaved quickly, and used the battery powered pump and hose to get wet. I turned off the pump while I lathered, then rinsed. I had plenty of water for a second round of that. However, with the bucket still half full, the pump no longer was working properly, so the real bliss was pouring the remainder of hot water over my head. The ecstasy lasted only seconds but was worth all the shivering that followed as I dried and dressed. Sure feels good to be clean again.

All the best,