Weekend Warm-Up: Loved by All – The Story of Apa Sherpa

One of the greatest living mountaineers, Apa Sherpa reached the summit of Mount Everest 21 times between 1990 and 2011. It was a record only surpassed this year.

He was born Lhakpa Shenzing Sherpa in Thame, also the hometown of Everest legend Tenzing Norgay.

At just three months old, he was caught in an avalanche with his mother and thrown from the basket on her back, landing under an ice ledge. When his mother found him unhurt, she took him to the lama to give thanks. The lama renamed him Apa Sherpa, meaning “loved by all”.

Growing up, he never aspired to summit Everest. His dream was to become a doctor. This dream was shattered at 12 years old with the death of his father. Apa Sherpa dropped out of school to support his mother, two sisters and three younger brothers by working as a porter with mountaineering groups.

His climbing career began in 1985 and he began carrying loads on Everest in 1988. His first summit was with Rob Hall, Gary Ball and Peter Hillary, son of Sir Edmund Hillary, in May 1990.

He reached the summit every year between 1990 and 2011, except for 1996 and 2001. In ’96 he had the chance to climb with Rob Hall again but he declined to build his house in Thame with his wife. Hall and his whole team subsequently perished.

Apa Sherpa on Everest. Photo: apasherpafoundation.com

In 2012, he led the first expedition to complete a 1,700km trek across the entire Nepalese Himalaya to raise awareness of climate change. Now known as The Great Himalayan Trail, it is considered one of the toughest treks in the world.

He is now a resident of Draper, Utah in the United States, where he co-founded the Apa Sherpa Foundation with his friend, Jerry Mika, to assist with education projects and schools in the Khumbu Valley of Nepal.

The film below tells his story and has recently been included in the National Geographic short film, Showcase.