Virtual Everest 2020 – Support the Climbing Sherpas

Kami at 2015 Lhotse Puja

Welcome to the kick-off of Virtual Everest 2020 – Support the Climbing Sherpas.

As regular readers of my blog know due to fears over the Coronavirus, aka COVID-19, Nepal closed all climbing, including Everest, for the spring 2020 season. China, through the Tibet Mountaineering Association, closed all their mountains to foreigners, Chinese nationals will be allowed on Everest and a small team is planning their expedition starting in a few weeks.

After 20 years of climbing or reporting on Everest, not covering it was going to leave a hole in my, and many other’s Spring. So I thought, why not cover Everest as usual but with fictional climbers and teams in April and May. But more important, use the power of our community to raise money to help the Climbing Sherpas, the backbone of Everest.

Virtual Everest

Almost daily for the next two months, I’ll do a post talking about what happens typically on Everest each Spring. I’ll talk about arriving in Kathmandu, flying to Luka, trekking to EBC, or driving to Chinese Base Camp (CBC). We’ll cover climbing the Hill – base camp life, acclimatization rotations, the invaluable help from the Icefall Doctors and Climbing Sherpas. And of course, the summit pushes starting in mid-May. While based on my own four times on Everest and twice for Lhotse, the characters and teams will be fictional, and I will not be using real names or companies.

Here’s an opportunity for readers – contribute your own daily story through the comments. I’ll set the tone for the day with my post but encourage you to add to the narrative with your comments thus creating a virtual community.

We start tomorrow with “Leaving Home.”

Support the Climbing Climbing Sherpas

The Climbing Sherpas have come to depend on the income from Everest expeditions to support their families, buy food, pay school costs, build homes, and more. This year’s loss of income will be a considerable hardship for many of them. While some guide companies have paid part of their Sherpa’s expected income, almost no outfit could pay all. Most guides hire between 20 to 100 each season. A Sherpa will earn an average of $6,000 for the season. This opportunity is where you, our readers, come in.

I’ve worked with many leading guides across the globe to set up individual crowd-funding sites or existing foundations, where all the money donated in April and May will be given directly to the Climbing Sherpas to help offset some of their loss. In other words, if you donate to any of the guides listed below, you will be supporting a Sherpa family this Spring.

To be clear, who, how much, and how often you donate is a personal decision. Maybe you climbed with one of the guides, or plan to one day. Perhaps you have followed them for years and want to support their Sherpa team, or maybe you support by geography – Nepali, American, Austrian, British, New Zealand. It’s up to you and will be much appreciated.

My sincere appreciation to those companies who accepted my invitation to join Virtual Everest 2020 – Support the Climbing Climbing Sherpas:

Alpine Ascents International

Alpine Ascents International, founded by Todd Burleson, is a leader in the climbing industry and has been instrumental in setting guiding standards in the international climbing community for over 30 years. AAI has been working alongside Sherpa to achieve success on Everest since 1992, guiding over 300 climbers to the summit. This proud history is possible only through a committed and trusted partnership with the Sherpa team.

AAI’s continued success over the years has also been led largely by Lakpa Rita Sherpa, who has been a part of 23 Everest expeditions. In addition to his 17 Everest summits, Lakpa became the first Sherpa to climb the Seven Summits. His legendary climbing career is paired with a passion for helping his fellow Nepalis. As Sirdar he directs and organizes the Sherpa team for each of our Himalayan expeditions, and under his leadership 30+ Sherpa are able to provide for their families each Everest season.

Lakpa is also an instrumental part of the Alpine Ascents Foundation, a non-profit created by Todd and Gordon Janow (AAI’s Director of Programs) in 1999, dedicated to improving the lives of people who live in indigenous mountain areas by providing access to education and resources. The Foundation’s Sherpa Education Fund makes it possible for children in the Khumbu region to attend school and pursue education opportunities throughout Nepal. We are grateful for the support of Alpine Ascents clients who have contributed to help the Sherpa community in the past, and have confidence they will again rise to this occasion.

– Jonathan Spitzer
Click to Donate to Alpine Ascents’ Climbing Sherpas

Adventure Consultants

Adventure Consultants. New Zealand has appreciated a relationship with the Climbing Sherpas since Hillary first reached the summit of Everest with Tenzing in 1953. Rob Hall, Gary Ball and Guy Cotter pioneered commercial expeditions on Everest on our first fully guided expedition in 1992. Since then, AC has enabled 360 ascents of Everest and continues to offer the highest standards and most experienced guide team on the mountain.

Our Sherpa staff have always been a highly valued and integral component of our operation. Ang Dorjee Sherpa made his first ascent of Everest together with Guy Cotter in 1992. He worked as climbing Sirdar until 2008 then moved to USA and has been a guide with us ever since. He has achieved 20 ascents of Everest and is keen to go back for more! Da Jangbu Sherpa and Rinji Sherpa are long-serving Sirdars with AC who sport formidable ascent records, as do many of our long term Sherpa staff. In a typical season AC employ between 40 and 60 sherpa staff; an operations manager, sirdars, climbing Sherpa, cooks and trekking guides All these Climbing Sherpas and their families are part of the extended AC family and their well-being is extremely important to us.

It is heart breaking to us that, in the current circumstances due to Covid19, we are not able to provide employment to our Sherpa staff who are also trying to feed their children and keep them in the education system so they can improve their lives. If you would like to offer any support, no matter how small, we will ensure it will get to those who need it most.

– Guy Cotter
Click to Donate to Adventure Consultant’s Climbing Sherpas

Alpenglow Expeditions

Lake Tahoe, California based Alpenglow Expeditions was founded in 2004 by IFMGA certified guide Adrian Ballinger. With over 30 international expeditions per year and a full menu of skiing, rock climbing and Via Ferrata adventures in Lake Tahoe, Alpenglow Expedition’s core values are founded on providing a unique experience for each client who desires to explore mountains both at home and across the world.

In 2012 Adrian developed the increasingly popular Rapid Ascent™ concept which utilizes pre-acclimatization at home to cut down on time spent away from home on high altitude expeditions. This new model of approaching the mountains has allowed busy climbers to tackle their dream climbs while maintaining professional and personal responsibilities at home.

In 2015, Adrian moved Alpenglow’s Everest operations to the north side of the mountain in an effort to avoid the overcrowding along with the inevitable dilemma that comes with sending Sherpa through the infamous Khumbu icefall multiple times each season.

“One of the great joys of my life has been working with Alpenglow’s incredible Sherpa team along with our Tibetan and Nepali cooks, yak drivers, and logistics support staff” says Adrian. “Dorji Sonam Sherpa, our sirdar (Sherpa team leader) and I grew up together in this life. For 2 decades Dorji and his handpicked team from the mountain town of Phortse have been the backbone of every expedition we run in the Himalaya.”

This year 18 Sherpa teammates along with 6 cooks and staff had been hired to support our Everest Rapid Ascent™ teams. While Alpenglow has committed to paying a significant portion of this season’s wages, we know this season and year will be incredibly difficult on everyone involved. Similar to so many of you around the world, instead of doing what they love – climbing and supporting team-members on the world’s tallest peak – our Sherpa and support team are sheltering at home and unable to earn income.

If you are able, please contribute what you can and 100% will go directly to our Nepali and Tibetan team members. And, keep dreaming! We will be back in the mountains as a team again someday soon.

– Adrian Ballinger
Click to Donate to Alpenglow’s Climbing Sherpas

Climbing The Seven Summits

A relatively young company, Climbing the Seven Summits (CTSS), founded in 2017 after breaking away from one of the industry giants with a vision to do things differently. Our niche is the Seven Summits – the highest peak on each continent (although we do offer a broad range of climbs and treks that compliment those)

We are nimble, progressive and have a high focus on individualized customer service and client safety. Our main point of difference is our ability to customize our expeditions to suit the budget, style and experience level of our team members without compromising on safety or taking shortcuts in our service. We create this unbeatable value by keeping our overheads low & passing those savings onto our clients. As a result we find that our climbers stay with us for the long haul, continuing to progress through the peaks, gaining skills and forming a CTSS community that goes well beyond our reach. We have an emphasis on corporate social responsibility and run a Not-For-Profit arm called ‘Tiger of the Snows Fund’ which supports the education of outdoor tourism workers and their families, specifically the Sherpa. We have a special initiative currently running after the Everest closure in 2020 to support the Sherpa’s lost wages.

Our Everest expedition success rate is 100% with successful summits on every trip we’ve run. Our individual Everest climber success rate is 85% and under my direct leadership over 200 climbers have stood on top of 8,000m peaks.
I’ve been guiding for 20 years, have led 13x Everest Expeditions (& 25x 8,000m expeditions) as both an expedition leader and a Guide with 15x 8,000m summits including 6 on Everest and authored the book “Climbing the Seven Summits.”

We employ on average 40+ climbing Sherpa and 10 cooks. Tendi Sherpa is our Sidar. He is a world famous climbing guide having guided and trained all over the world. He has 13x Everest summits, speaks 10x languages despite only having one year of official schooling, didn’t wear shoes until he was 13 and trained as a Lama for 7 years! He’s quite the character and unforgettable to all who meet him. And then there is Kami Sherpa who has worked on approx. 60x 8,000m expeditions and in excess of 30 Everest expeditions including 3x expeditions in one year (a pre monsoon, a post monsoon and winter expedition!) He is one of the most tenured and legendary Sherpa in history. Also, we’re lucky enough to have “Big Tendi” working for us as a private guide on Everest. He is the current Technical Director for the Nepal Mountain Guides Association who has represented Nepal in over 30 countries while climbing, guiding and training.

– Mike Hamill
Click to Donate to CTTS’s Climbing Sherpas

Furtenbach Adventures

For 20 years now, Lukas Furtenbach has built-up an enviable reputation among international climbers as one of the safest and most successful tour operators on Everest and other mountains around the globe.  His guided expedition company, Furtenbach Adventures, has an impeccable safety and success record and is known for bringing the latest innovations in both technology and medicine to the high-altitude, mountain climbing experience.

Furtenbach Adventures was founded in Austria in 2014 by outdoor adventurist, Lukas Furtenbach. Furtenbach has over 20 years’ experience guiding small groups on extraordinary summits. The company offers climbers premium expeditions to the highest peaks on earth and offers the best safety record in the industry. Furtenbach opened a US office in Lake Tahoe in 2019.

Furtenbach is one of the most talked about and respected companies in the industry, advancing such revolutionary concepts as the Flash Approach to mountain climbing, where climbers spend more time acclimating at home, making their expeditions shorter, more economical, and productive.

Great expeditions are managed and guided by exceptional people. That’s why Furtenbach Adventures has assembled the best leaders and Climbing Sherpas in the field.  Mingmadorchi Sherpa, Furtenbach’s “Sirdar” or lead Sherpa, has been a close friend and colleague for many years. He hails from a small village called Tashi Goun, is 38 years old, and has climbed Everest 19 times.

The 2020 Everest climbing season would have made it Mingmadorchi’s 20th summit.  Unfortunately, Everest was shut down this year over concerns with how a Covid-19 outbreak could potentially decimate climbers living in tight-quarters at base camp.

The pandemic has dashed the dreams of climbers globally, but more critically, it’s crushed the livelihoods of the Sherpa guides, many of whom rely on the climbing season as their only means of financial support all year.

Within days of the mountain’s closure, Lukas Furtenbach donated the company’s available monies to his team of Climbing Sherpas. He then established a support fund, asking climbers if they would donate a portion of their deposit funds to help Climbing Sherpas like Mingmadorchi salvage something from the cancelled season.

As one of the Sherpa reminded Lukas, “Your business is my business. We must try to emerge from this together.”   And this is why we are excited to have Furtenbach Adventures join us in our efforts to all get through this crisis, together.

Visit our site to learn more about Furtenbach Adventures and how it uses technology and medical monitoring to enhance climbing safety.

– Lukas Furtenbach
Click to Donate to Furtenbach Adventure’s Climbing Sherpas

International Mountain Guides

The Climbing Sherpas who committed to International Mountain Guides for Everest 2020 will get paid, and their yaks will get fed!  That is how IMG operates.  You can help us to make a difference in their lives and for their families, with 100% of the money raised going directly to Nepal to pay Climbing Sherpas (and feed yaks.)  We’ll add your name to the IMG Everest 2020 Heroes banner. That baby is going to the summit!

IMG won’t tout our statistics and our decades of success here, you can look those up. Our staying power in Nepal has come from keeping our word to the Climbing Sherpas who trek and climb with our team members, carry loads, cook meals, and show us their strength and humility every day.  For them, one Everest season is the difference between prosperity and poverty for entire families and villages. Everest climbs do not happen without all of them.

How can we afford to pay them? Simple. We hold our teams responsible for the staff we hire, and good people step up and distinguish themselves in times like this. They already have. IMG customers have generously and selflessly supported the Climbing Sherpas in 2014 and 2015, and they are doing it again in 2020.

IMG celebrates people like Alan Arnette who pull together in times like this, epitomizing the values of mountaineering that IMG often finds in climbers and trekkers who join us.   Thanks for your help, Alan!  We are proud that you chose IMG as your guide service outfitter for your first 8000m climb on Cho Oyu in 1998, and five climbs in your 7 Summits for Alzheimers project including Vinson, Aconcagua, Elbrus, Kilimanjaro and Everest.

To join Alan and IMG’s community in supporting the Climbing Sherpas (and yaks!) please visit our website.

– Greg Vernovage
Click to Donate to IMG’s Climbing Sherpas

Jagged Globe on Everest

Jagged Globe was the first British company to organise a professionally-led, guided expedition to Everest, in 1993. Led by founder and IFMGA Guide, Steve Bell, it was an international team that included 60-year old Spaniard, Ramon Blanco, a guitar maker living in Venezuela and the oldest summiteer at the time. At the time, it put more people on the top that any previous expedition and set the trend for our continued relationship with the mountain.

Since then the company has organised 22 expeditions to the mountain; mostly from the Nepal, but 3 from Tibet. To date there have been 259 summits on Jagged Globe expeditions (including all Climbing Sherpas/climbers/leaders).

Notable summiteers include Alan Hinkes (the only Briton to have climbed all 14 8000m peaks), Sibusiso Vilane (the first Black African to summit Everest) and Nick Talbot (the first person with Cystic Fibrosis to reach the top). Jagged Globe is perhaps synonymous with expedition leader, David Hamilton. David retired from Everest at the end of last season with an impressive record (including leading several teams with 100% success). David has been to the top himself 10 times. American, Robert Mads Anderson (famously the leader of the fist ascent of the Kangshung Face in 1988 as well as two previous Jagged Globe Everest expeditions) was due to lead our team this year.  Now postponed, he’ll be at the helm in 2021.

Like most other companies with a long record on the mountain, Jagged Globe has always had a very experienced, loyal and strong Sherpa team. Our Sirdar is Pem Chirri Sherpa, who has worked for us for 15 years and has summited Everest 14 times, so far. He is intrinsic to our success on the mountain.  Pem brings together and leads the Sherpa team each spring which, this year, included Ms Nima Jangbu Sherpa. She made headlines in 2018 by climbing Everest, Lhotse and Kangchenjunga in a single season. In addition to our Climbing Sherpas, many of the base camp staff have worked for Jagged Globe for over a decade, not just on Everest but all over Nepal and on mountains such as Ama Dablam, Cholatse and Manaslu.

– Tom Briggs
Click to Donate to Jagged Globe’s Climbing Sherpas

Madison Mountaineering

Madison Mountaineering has been operating on Mount Everest every year since 2014, with an average team size of 12 clients and 24 climbing Climbing Sherpas. Prior to founding MM, Garrett Madison led expeditions for Alpine Ascents on Mount Everest every year since 2009, he has personally led more clients (60+) to the summit (stood on top with) than anyone. The last 2 years MM did the rope fixing project, installing the ropes from camp 2 to the summit, alongside running a successful expedition for clients. Garrett began guiding professionally for Rainier Mountaineering in 1999, and currently has 10 Everest summits.

Our Sherpa team is the backbone of our Everest operation, they do the ‘heavy lifting’ for the expedition by carrying loads up the mountain to build and stock the higher camps, help establish the route, and assist climbers when necessary. They also climb with us on summit day, helping us reach the summit and make it back down safely. They don’t hesitate to help out when someone is in trouble, whether it’s our team or another team on the mountain. They have also done a fine job of the ‘rope fixing’ the last 2 years on Everest, ensuring the fixed ropes are put in safely and in a timely manner. The number of Everest summits they have averages 6, while some have as many as 23 Everest summits and some as little as just 1 when starting out.

Our Sidar is Aang Phurba Sherpa, from the Kembalung valley nearby Makalu.  Many of our Climbing Sherpas are from this region, but we also have others from the Khumbu valley such as Dorjee Gelgen and Pa Dawa both from Pangboche (24 summits). We also have a wonderful staff of cooks and other integral support staff that make our Everest expeditions successful, safe, and fun!

– Garrett Madison
Click to Donate to Madison Mountaineering’s Climbing Sherpas

Mountain Professionals

Mountain Professionals is based in Boulder, CO USA and has been operating international climbing and polar ski expeditions since 2005. Long specializing in high altitude guiding, primarily on the Seven Summits, we also have an emphasis on Polar Ski guiding, and expanding domestic programs. This year marks the 15th anniversary of Mountain Professionals as we continue to build out additional climbing school locations in the USA, as well as expanded expeditions in Ecuador, Chile and Antarctica. The owner and director, Ryan Waters has guided 23 foreign climbers to the summit of Everest. He worked on his first Everest expedition in 2004 and the Mountain Professionals Everest teams began there in 2008.

The style of our Everest programs has always been focused on smaller sized teams of qualified climbers who work alongside a high ratio of professional mountain guides and our Sherpa climbing staff. We strive to make our Everest Expeditions almost a family atmosphere at base camp, and on the mountain the clients are climbing with the same set of professional guides and Climbing Sherpas on each of the rotations to build a team feeling as opposed to various individual groups on different styles of programs.

Our Eight man climbing Sherpa team are all working throughout the year as guides in Nepal, with Everest being the prime season to earn most of a year’s funds for their families. Tashi Sherpa, our Sirdar and one of our mountain guides, is an IFMGA certified mountain guide and works year round in the mountains of Nepal, Europe, and various Mountain Professionals departures.

– Ryan Waters
Click to Donate to Mountain Professional’s Climbing Sherpas

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

Climbing Sherpa Support

Who, how much, and how often you donate is a personal decision. Maybe you climbed with one of the guides, or plan to one day. Perhaps you have followed them for years and want to support their Climbing Sherpa team, or maybe you support by geography – Nepali, American, Austrian, British, New Zealand. It’s up to you and will be much appreciated.

My sincere appreciation to those companies who accepted my invitation to join Virtual Everest 2020 – Support the Climbing Sherpas:

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7 thoughts on “Virtual Everest 2020 – Support the Climbing Sherpas

  1. I think this is a great idea, Alan. I’ve just heard too many stories about money NOT getting to the ones that we are donating to. Is there any way to make sure all (or at least most) of the money gets to the Sherpas? Accountability?

    1. That’s why I only asked the world-class guides who have a long history of honesty and integrity to join. A few said no based on the framework I proposed that addressed your concerns. But as always there are no 100% guarantees.

  2. Hi Alan,
    Great to see you are back. What I love about your blog is that it’s professional, factual, entertaining and you do so much for the sherpa community. Without the sherpas there would be no climbing on Everest, they truly are amazing people.
    Thank you!

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