Gelje Sherpa, Three 8,000’ers Away from a New Record

8000ers Sherpa
Portrait of Gelje Sherpa
Gelje Sherpa wants to summit all the 8,000'ers before turning 30. Photo: Gelje Sherpa

A young Sherpa tries to become the youngest to climb all 14 of the 8,000m peaks.

Among those heading for the mountains in the coming weeks, a young Sherpa guide working with Nirmal Purja’s Elite Himalayan Adventures draws special attention.

Twenty-nine-year-old Gelje Sherpa started the year as the youngest of the 10 K2 winter climbers last month. He now aims to become the youngest 14×8,000m summiter in history.

Gelje Sherpa (sometimes written Geljen) started his career as a porter and soon took on one of the riskiest mountain jobs: He became an Ice Fall Doctor, fixing the route up Everest’s unstable Khumbu Icefall every spring. Soon, however, he switched to the comparatively less dangerous task of guiding the big peaks.

He started with Kangchenjunga. Although no one summited on that occasion, he successfully climbed Everest shortly after. Then in winter 2018-19, he joined Alex Txikon to attempt K2. The expedition reached 7,000m, making him the man with the most experience on that mountain in winter among the nearly 40 climbers who showed up in Base Camp this year.

In spring 2019, Gelje’s 8,000m career properly took off, together with Nirmal Purja’s. Following Purja’s pursuit of the fastest 14x8000m record, Gelje summited six of the 14 with him. He suddenly had only four to go and started nurturing the ambition of snatching the “youngest” title from his working partner and companion on the summit of K2, Mingma David Sherpa, also with Elite Expeditions. Mingma David, who completed his own quest at 30 years and 5 months of age, said that he would be delighted to have his bhai (younger brother) Gelje take the record from him.

The current record-holder Mingma David (left) and the aspirant Gelje Sherpa, on the summit of K2 last month. Photo: Gelje Sherpa

Climbing again with Purja’s Elite team, Gelje has the entire year to bag the record. With K2 (in winter!) now squared away, he only has Kangchenjunga, Broad Peak and Cho Oyu to go. The threesome makes a perfect choice for spring, summer, and fall.

The main difficulty will be logistical rather than climbing-related: Cho Oyu’s normal route is accessed from Tibet, and the Chinese government has not opened its borders to foreign climbing expeditions since the pandemic began. Gelje will either have to hope the Tibet-China Mountaineering Association comes through for him or…maybe try to climb it from Nepal? Cho Oyu’s Nepali side, steep and avalanche-prone, is a major challenge but, in this Year of the Sherpa in the Himalaya, it is not out of reach for the talented young star.

In a recent interview, Gelje spoke about his career and dreams. Humble and honest, he spoke about his profession as a mountain guide and the remarkable significance that the recent triumph on K2 has had for the Sherpa climbing community and for Nepal overall.

Yet he hopes that his two children, ages eight and three, will not follow in his footprints.  “I was able to study only till Grade 5, but I want my children to have a good education and a bright future,” he said. “I don’t want them to get into this profession, which is full of hardship. They should do easy jobs.”

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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Jay
Jay
8 months ago

“Mingma David, who completed his own quest at 30 years and 5 months of age, said that he would be delighted to have his dai (brother) Gelje take the record from him.”

Should have been ‘bhai’ (younger brother) instead of ‘dai’ (elder brother)

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Jerry Kobalenko
Admin
8 months ago
Reply to  Jay

Corrected, thank you!

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Mike
Mike
8 months ago

Unfortunately no one cares. Maybe he can impress his Bros but that’s about it. Really, no one cares. Look how much coverage these records are getting in the Western press, even Nepali press. Almost none. These type of pursuits lack the mystique and romance that made the mountaineering of the 70s and 80s so compelling. It soon will be like is asking who won the 100m sprint in the most recent olympics.

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Paradise City
Paradise City
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike

Usain Bolt and Elaine Thompson

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Asif
Asif
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike

Well said. These people are littering the mountains with their dead bodies and other junks.

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Damien François
Damien François
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike

It means a lot to his community and we should honor that!

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Damien François
Damien François
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike

So all climbing should be banned? Once you had a sexual relationship, you should just stop and stick to memories?
This whole debate is utterly ridiculous. Once a peak has been climbed, it has been climbed. What do want to do about it? Not climb anymore?

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Don Paul
Don Paul
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike

It’s a professional credential he can use to get clients. The clients aren’t climbers. For them, the world of climbing is all about Mt. Everest and the Guinness Book. It may not impress real climbers, but doesn’t have to.

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Last edited 8 months ago by Don Paul
Damien François
Damien François
8 months ago
Reply to  Don Paul

So, given your permanent moral high-ground, tell us what YOU have done so far, climbing.
I guess you have never been in the Himalayas, you would have encountered xclimbing clients, for sure…

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novi
8 months ago

Damien, i guess you reply Mike, right, not Don

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Damien François
Damien François
8 months ago

Ramro sathi, Gelje, I wish you the best of luck for your endeavor. You are a very good man and a strong climber, you deserve a record!

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Walid Hamadeh
Walid Hamadeh
8 months ago

That is an amazing accomplishment if he ends up holding the title and record of the youngest person to ascent all 14x8Ks summits. Gelje’s career path in mountaineering highlights the extreme hardships that he and his countrymates endure to accomplish what so few people have. In order to get to where he is today Gelje had to endure so many personal, physical, emotional, phycological, financial…etc difficulties. Over the years he was paid a meager wage and risked his life for someone else to claim records and financially profit when they have to just show up and reach a summit. Now… Read more »

Blabla
Blabla
8 months ago

According to the interview with the Nepalese media in the link given, he scaled eight 8000ers within Project Possible, not six?

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