A team of all Nepalese climbers made it to the headlines of International news media on the 16th of January. After quite some time Nepal was in the headlines for the right reasons as these Nepalese climbers made history by successfully climbing the second highest mountain, also considered to be the deadliest.
Why was it considered to be the greatest feat for the world and humankind? Located in Pakistan’s part of the Karakoram range, K2 is the last of the world’s 14 tallest mountains—all higher than 8,000 meters, and the climbers increased the stakes by climbing it during the winter. The team of the Nepalese climbers were born in the Himalayas and nine out of ten were Sherpas.
“History made for mankind, History made for Nepal!” exclaimed Nirmal Purja, a british Gurkha veteran turned celebrated mountaineer who envisioned this expedition.
However, the history of Sherpas who worked as porters, guides and facilitators dates back to 1952 when Tenzing Sherpa attempted to climb Mt. Everest twice with a Swiss mountaineer Raymond Lambert. Both times, they had to abort the expedition and were forced to turn back less than 300 meters from the peak.
Tenzing did remember Lambert when he made it to the Summit of Everest for the first time with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. Tenzing took out the red scarf gifted by Lambert and remembered him from the highest point on the planet. This was done out of sheer respect and gratitude. In Tenzing Sherpa’s biography ‘Man of Everest by James Ramsey – 1955’, Tenzing mentions his affinity for the Swiss because they treated the Sherpas as comrades rather than employees.
Fast forward 68 years, Nepalese Sherpas are not just facilitators and collaborators on countless mountaineering feats, they have become almost indispensable in the world of mountaineering beyond Himalaya. Sherpas proudly stand to be among the strongest mountaineers as they were borned and raised in the thin air.
Brother to brother, shoulder to shoulder, we walked together to the summit whilst singing the Nepali national anthem. We all stopped around 10m before reaching the summit to huddle and make our final steps together as a team to mark this historical feat .. 1/4 #K2winter pic.twitter.com/P2kCwRy1Vn— Nirmal Purja MBE (@nimsdai) January 24, 2021
The success of the K2 expedition turned out to be a great achievement for Nepal. This came as a respite to the nation struggling to get out of the unprecedented blow of COVID. In a brighter light, this expedition would not have been possible if not for COVID. The pandemic suspended the spring climbing season in Nepal. With no foreign climbers in Nepalese mountains, the Nepalese team took up the audacious goal of winter expedition to K2 and made Nepal even prouder.
The confident and seasoned Sherpa mountaineers from Nepal will continue to share the goodness of mountaineering. While respecting the sacred mountains and fragile ecosystem of the Himalaya, Sherpas, with their knowledge and humility, will prove to be the best ambassadors for sustainable adventure in the world.