"I work as a guide, but this is not work for me, it´s my passion"

Exclusive interview. The character of the year 2017 of Alpinismonline Magazine

Carlos Eduardo González | Redacción Alpinismonline Martes 19 de Diciembre de 2017 - 21:37 2031 | 0


Fernanda Insua
Noel González
Carlos Eduardo González
Redacción Alpinismonline Magazine

All photos by Mingma Gyalje Sherpa

See the interview in SPANISH HERE

The Himalayism and especially its most important branch, the eight thousandth, has had an extremely complex 2017. In a very small activity in terms of time, almost everything has come to us in a short period of three or four months. First we started with a winter Everest, whose protagonist Alex Txikón did everything possible to achieve a goal that was finally denied. We will see if now in 2018 can finally make it happen.

Then, a season of Himalaya that left a very deep mark, in the list of tragedies of Everest: Ueli Steck. A little later, Mariano Galván and Alberto Zerain put the whole world of mountaineering in suspense, concluding with a new tragedy that even several months later we could not digest.

Among all this, mountaineering continues. Himalayism in its most exquisite version, the eight thousand continue, and will continue on their way. For that reason, although the tragedies mark a year, they do not constitute relevant facts, but they open the way for testimonial events and the meaning of their protagonists.

Hence we are left with the stories that have come to a good end and that inscribe the history of mountaineering. Life stories at last.

In this sense, the year 2017 is highlighted by a particular mountaineer, who had the satisfaction based on his great knowledge, experience and work, of accessing the summit of five eight thousand in this season.

Mingma Gyalje, reached the summit of Dhaulagiri on April 30; the Makalu on May 11; the K2 on July 28; the Broad Peak on August 4 and the Nanga Parbat on October 2. We note that there is some controversy regarding the Broad Peak summit but Mingma confirms it. They were five eight thousand then and six above eight meters by the failed attempt to Nanga Parbat in the month of June.

We interviewed Mingma to learn more about him. Not only about his activity, his eight thousand, but something much more important: his life and the life of his Sherpa people next to the highest mountains in the world. And we find ourselves with a very humble, simple and always predisposed person, of whom we have learned a lot in a few questions, just as you will be able to observe it. What he thinks, about his people and what are his main values.

Beyond that, as we said, there is some controversy about whether or not the summit of Broad Peak, six times above eight thousand meters, in a season, is serious.

Therefore, we have concluded that it is one of the most important characters of this year that ends.

And in honor of his predisposition, his humility and his people, for Alpinismonline Magazine is the great character of the year that ends. Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, with you:

Mingma´s team Pakistan 2017 (Photo Mingma G.)

For the Sherpas in general climbing is a way of life. In your case besides the economic element, what other things drive you to climb?

My parents were involved in Mountaineering field and my father worked as Guide and climbing sherpa for his whole life. In 1983 he lost 8 fingers while helping Japanese guy in 8000m on Everest. Still he continued it as his profession and interest because he has that environment. I grew up in same environment and I always wandered I would like to try it once. As so as I finished my schooling in 2006, I joined an expedition with my uncle to mount Manaslu. I personally enjoyed that climb though I joined there for working with Japanese team. Later on I joined Lhotse and climbed Everest in 2007. In a year, I was already established climbing Sherpa as I was strong on mountain. Many other senior guides demanded me to work with them. But seriously I didn´t have intention to work in this field. By that time I was also fascinated by this work. I tried to leave this field but couldn´t leave. So I started taking training since 2010 and completed my diploma course in Mountaineering as UIAGM/IFMGA mountain Guide. I took it as my profession and passion. I don´t only Guide but I also do Climbing for myself. I did solo climb, new Peak ascent, searching new climbing destination because I found myself happy doing these things. When I am on mountain, I don´t have to answer phone call, I am in different kind of world, nobody is there to cheat on us, no 9-5pm office routine. Life is completely different. And these are the things which don´t let me leave Climbing.

Ama Dablam 2017 (Photo Mingma G.)

What do you think about your success as a mountaineer? What adjectives do you think define you?

Every time whether I am guiding or climbing alone, I Climb for myself for my own happiness. I work but this is not work for me but it´s my passion. So I think I get success but still I am not successful mountaineer. I still have long way to go.

Camp 2 Ama Dablam 2017 (Photo Mingma G.)

In Nepal and Pakistan there are many mountains still unexplored, would you like to climb any of them? Or will you just keep repeating eight thousand mountains?

I was born in Rolwaling Valley at the altitude of 4200m where there is no school, no electricity, no transportation, no means of communication, no health service, in all we can say very remote area. Many mountain were unclimbed and unexplored in that region . Since 2010, we organized 1 new Peak each year and now there is no place where people haven´t reach. We started it from our own home and gradually we will enter in other places. Our elders say if you want to change something, you do yourself from your home and that´s what we did. Now Rolwaling is famous for ice climbing, rock climbing and Peak ascent. More and more tourists are going there. And we are happy that we started exploration from our own place. I like to do my remaining two 8000m peak but I will also repeat other 8000m peak as part of guiding.

In the Broad Peak summit 2017 (Photo Mingma G.)

In the Broad Peak summit 2017 (Photo Mingma G.)

What mountain do you think will be overcrowded in the near future?

If I talk about 8000m then Yes Manaslu in Nepal and G2 and Nanga Parbat in Pakistan.

Manaslu is already getting so crowded and it will be more crowded in future.

If the government of Pakistan give proper training to their climber in Pakistan and make permit and visa process easier, believe me, G2 and Nanga Parbat will get too much crowded. People are afraid because of terrorism in Pakistan and never go there. Once you are there, you won´t find that environment. People are as friendly as we are. They have their law to protect everyone. You will not feel whatever you read on internet. You will return home with lots of beautiful memories.

Economically also, Pakistan is much cheaper. And if people start feeling Pakistan is safe to travel then yes, Nanga Parbat has change to get crowded. We climbed Nanga Parbat in September this year and the weather, mountain conditions and time were simply perfect. It was one of the most beautiful climb of my life.

NANGA PARBAT 2017 (Photo Mingma G.)

NANGA PARBAT 2017 (Photo Mingma G.)

How is the current situation of the Sherpas? Do you think that the working conditions have improved and that they are becoming professionalized?

Now more and more educated sherpa are coming in this field. They work for the future betterment and also it is getting very professional. Previously sherpa work on mountain and go home happily taking their salary.. They don´t care about technical training or getting knowledge. Sherpa at present go on Internet, travel different countries to learn new techniques. Because of that also many international companies are now hiring sherpa for guiding in their countries. It´s a good achievement.

But price competition and government´s unsatisfactory rules are again other factor that are affecting us. If a Sherpa working on mountain dies then his family get 15,000/-$ usd equivalents which is nothing at present. The salary and bonus given in price competition market are too low.

Unless we have strong government rules and regulations, we cannot expect be so professionalized. But still it has changed a lot and demands of Sherpa is increasing worldwide because they are getting professionalized.

K2 summit 2017 (Photo Mingma G.)

This year has been very important for you with five eight thousand, that is not at all usual. Has it been the most important year of your career?

In my whole career, 2015 was most important. That was the year when I made my solo climb on West face of Chobuje as first successful climb. No one from my village expected that anyone will do it from that face. When I was small, I used to tell my father if he can climb it but he answered me no one from this world will climb it from that face. My father, Dorjee passed away in 2015 July and I made it solo climb in same year and named the route, DORJEE route. It was the first and only solo climb ever made.

K2 summit 2017 (Photo Mingma G.)

K2 2017 (Photo Jhonn Snorri)

What conclusion can you draw about Dawa Sange Sherpa that in the month of May he risked his life to save her client´s, with the known consequences?

That incident happened because of careless by everyone. We don´t have law in Nepal. Anyone can go and climb any mountain. If the government make sets of rules like minimum training for climbing or in order to climb 8000m peak one should attempt 7000m first then that shouldn´t have occurred. Then comes tour organizer who must know who to send and why to send. Client is the one who must know his limit. He spent money doesn´t mean anyone will die for that money.

Our biggest problem is increasing tour operator and price competition brought by these operators. More and more adventures tour organizer are establishing and to attract more customers, they compitate by offering less price. Because of this, the number of clients increases but the quality of services decrease. In order to provide good service and qualified Sherpa, the client must pay good enough.

I don´t know anything about Dawa Sange but reading some articles published, I felt that was his first time on Everest and so was for Pakistani climbers. It looks both wanted to reach Everest Summit but both didn´t calculate their oxygen ,time and energy to go back. It shows both were inexperienced, one could not take decision and another couldn´t give decisions. I congratulate them for making safe back home in spite of serious frostbites. Also feel sorry for them for their loss but they gave big lessons to others.

What has been the most complex situation in the eight thousand throughout his career?

It´s my 11th year working in Mountaineering field. I still get numb recurring my Everest Expedition 2015 where I lost 5 members from my team. On 25th April 2015, Over 9000people died in Nepal because of Earthquake. We had big avalanche which came from part of Mt Pumori and it directly hit the Everest Base Camp. The earthquake shaked the mountain and avalanche occurred.. Total 18 people died in that avalanche and unfortunately 5 were from my team. Over 100s were injured. We had very colorful tent at Base Camp in the morning but it was totally empty in the noon making everything rubbishy by that deadly avalanche. It was bloody base camp. Dead bodies, injured people, everywhere crying, shouting, running for help. Remembering that day, my eyes still get teared.

What are the remaining eight to climb?

I have 13th and 14th i.e Gasherbrum-II and Sishapangma. I didn´t have plan to climb 14 peaks but after reaching the summit of Kanchenjunga and K2 in 2013 and 2014 then I plan to continue on it. As we Nepalese have long Climbing history and no one from Nepal has done 14 peaks without use of oxygen so I plan to introduce our country in 14 Peak without O2 club.

Thank you very much Mingma Gyalje for this wonderful testimony.

Thanks Mingma Gyalje!

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