Apa (born Lhakpa Tenzing Sherpa; 20 January 1960) nicknamed “Super Sherpa”, is a Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer who, jointly with Phurba Tashi, holds the world record for reaching the summit of Mount Everest more times than any other person. Apa holds 11 world records by consistently breaking his own record. He has climbed the mountain twenty-one times as of May 2013. As part of The Eco Everest Expedition in 2011, Apa made his 21st Mount Everest summit. Apa is considered the foremost mountaineer in history.
Lhakpa Tenzing Sherpa was born in Thame, a village in the Everest region of Nepal, near the Chinese border. At the age of 3 months he and his mother were caught in an avalanche and Lhakpa was thrown from the basket on his mother’s back and came to rest under an ice ledge. After his mother found him unhurt she took him to the Lama to pray and give thanks and the Lama renamed him “Apa” which means much loved. Apa always wanted to be a doctor but his dreams were dashed when at the age of 12 his father died. Following his father’s death Apa had to take up the responsibilities of his family, consisting of his mother, two sisters and three young brothers. He dropped out of school and earned money working as a porter for mountaineering groups. His climbing career began in 1985, and he worked as a kitchen boy and porter for various groups but was not given the opportunity to reach the summit until 1990.
Apa first reached the summit of Mount Everest on his fourth attempt, on May 10, 1990, with a New Zealand team led by climber Rob Hall along with Peter Hillary, son of Sir Edmund Hillary. He then began his career as Sirdar, or chief Sherpa, for many high altitude expeditions. He has reached the summit every year between 1990 and 2011, bar 1996 and 2001; all but three times have been in May, and in 1992 he reached the summit twice. In 1996 Apa was scheduled to climb with Rob Hall and his team but Apa’s wife Yangjin convinced him to stay home to build their lodge. This turned out to be a fateful decision when sadly Rob Hall and his whole team perished in the climb.
Apa in his May 2010 Trek says that climbing to Everest has become tough due to the melting of ice and rock surfaces. He sees visible changes on the Everest summit due to global warming.
Ascents of Mount Everest
Apa has climbed Mount Everest a total of 21 times, which stands as the current record. Aside from these 21 ascents, however, Apa has also participated in unsuccessful attempts.
May 2009 Ascent
Apa broke his own record by reaching the summit of Everest for the nineteenth time on May 21, 2009. He was a member of The Eco Everest Expedition, led by Bill Burke, whose purpose was to raise awareness about climate change. The team spent half an hour at the top of the mountain, unfurling a banner that said “Stop Climate Change”. The team brought down five tons of mountain trash that includes parts of a crashed helicopter, tin cans and climbing material. On this expedition, a friend and fellow Sherpa, Lhakpa Nuru, was swept away in an avalanche on May 7, 2009, and died.
May 2011 Ascent
Apa again broke his own record by reaching the summit of Everest for the twenty-first time on May 11, 2011.
Great Himalayan Trail
On April 2012, he successfully lead the first expedition to complete the Great Himalaya Trail, a 1,700-kilometre (1,050-mile) trek spanning the entire length of the Nepalese Himalayas. The Great Himalaya Trail is considered to be one of the world’s most difficult treks. Sherpa and three companions set off in January on the Climate Smart Celebrity Trek, an expedition promoting tourism and highlighting the effects of climate change. The adventurers set out from the shadow of the world’s third-highest peak, Mount Kanchenjunga, in the east and finished at Nepal’s border with Tibet in the west, 20 days ahead of schedule. Along the way they traversed some of the world’s most rugged landscapes, ascending beyond 6,000 meters (19,600 feet). Dawa Steven Sherpa, a member of the expedition who has climbed Everest twice, said the group found mountain communities that rely on subsistence farming were suffering the effects of climate change.
Apa married Yangjin, then also a resident of Thame, in 1988 and has two sons—Tenjing and Pemba—and a daughter Dawa. The family moved to the United States with the help of his friend Jerry Mika for business opportunities and to provide better education for their children. They live in Draper, Utah
In April 2009, Apa founded the Apa Sherpa Foundation, dedicated to the improvement of education and economic development in Nepal. When not on expeditions, Apa works for Diamond Mold, a precision machining and injection molding company in Salt Lake City, Utah that has also supported his foundation.
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