Mount Everest record holder out to conquer business

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: John Jackson greets a Christmas that he wasn’t sure he’d see160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SALT LAKE CITY — In the climbing world, Apa Sherpa is at the peak. He has conquered Mount Everest 16 times, a record matched by no one, and even reached the 29,028-foot summit without oxygen on four of those trips. “He is the Tiger Woods of climbing,” friend Jerry Mika said. Now the valley below Utah’s Wasatch Mountains is Sherpa’s new home. He has left Nepal to start a life in business and give his children a shot at a better education. He and his family arrived in the United States with assistance from political and business leaders, including an outdoor-clothing executive. Sherpa also is driven by a deep desire to improve the lives of others, especially in his native land. “There’s so much this man has to tell from the stories of his life,” said Mika, who met Sherpa in 2003 while working for a Seattle-based clothing maker. “Western climbers go up Everest one time and come back and get their book deals,” Mika said, but he called climbers like Sherpa “the true unsung heroes, and that’s what I want to help him bring out.” The word “sherpa” means “people from the East.” Years ago, English climbers used it as a nickname for local men who hauled climbing gear up Nepal’s mountains. The nickname eventually morphed into a commonly used surname, Mika explained. Sherpa, 47, is shy and slight, even when enveloped in a puffy down jacket. He and Mika are partners at Karma Outdoor Clothing Co., a retail store in Salt Lake City. He also is working on his English with the hope of becoming a motivational speaker. Mika quit his job last summer to help Sherpa relocate. “He was asking me, ‘Jerry, can you help me? My children are getting older; time is running out.’ I couldn’t sleep at night,” Mika said. So he bought a plane ticket for Sherpa and went to work finding others to help. Outdoor-industry friends and climbers have been generous. Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was among dozens who wrote letters to speed up the immigration process. Sherpa’s family — wife Yangjin, 42, sons Tenjing, 21, and Pemba, 15, and daughter Dawa, 11 — arrived Tuesday. Someone has offered to pay Tenjing’s tuition at the University of Utah, and Yangjin will help run a tea house at Snowbird ski resort. Such kindness “will change my life,” said Sherpa, who speaks broken English. It could also change lives in Thame, Nepal, the community he left behind. Thame’s 600 residents live in the shadow of Everest. Thame children have one school, and classes end after seventh grade. Sherpa hopes to earn enough money to build a school in Thame for teenagers and even pay teachers’ salaries. “Then they can choose, climbing or something else,” he said. Sherpa reached the Everest summit in 1990 with Peter Hillary, the son of Sir Edmund Hillary, who was among the first climbers to the top in 1953. Pete Athens also hit the summit that day 16 years ago and has returned six times. He praised Sherpa for “his great heart, his great humility and his incredible skills as an athlete.” Sherpa’s last trip to the top was May 16. “Every time is hard and too risky,” he said. “The mother goddess of Everest saved my life.” Mika said Sherpa is bewildered by dozens of Web sites where his accomplishments are noted. “He is so humble. He will never tell you about his records,” Mika said. Sherpa, who grins and giggles easily, said records are not important. “More important,” he said, “is to help other people.”last_img read more

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