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South Asia Peace Initiative

Climbing Mt. Everest, One Step at a Time

Climbers reaching the summitThe Mt. Everest expedition was for a noble cause: to support the government, to unite all the political parties and all the religions around the mission of writing a new constitution for our nation, and to help bring peace to all nations. The Universal Peace Federation supported us very much. I know that people were praying for our success.

This was a very challenging time for the climbers; we literally risked our lives. All the people who signed the banner should know and understand what kind of effort and focus this expedition took. [The banner was signed by the heads of all 25 political parties, government leaders, and leaders of nine religions in Nepal, as a symbol of national unity and reflecting the spirit of nation-building.] We didn’t do this for ourselves, but for the future of this nation.

It was only with a very strong heart of determination — not half-hearted, but a total commitment — that we could carry out this mission. The political leaders also should have this kind of dedication and willingness to sacrifice even their lives for the sake of Nepal’s bright future.

Crossing a chasmIt is usually very expensive to climb Mt. Everest. A foreign climber usually has one Sherpa as his or her personal guide to accompany them during the whole trip. If they have lots of money, they may have as many as three personal guides. In addition to this, there are usually four or five porters for each climber. They act as helpers to carry equipment up and down the mountain.

There were only eight members on our team: five climbers, two porters, and one cook. We had to do everything ourselves. And even then, only three of the climbers actually reached the summit.

The two climbers who didn’t reach the top were simply not strong enough, and they decided to turn back by themselves. One developed a fever and headache; he turned back just below South Col, at about 7,800 meters. The other felt cold and started coughing; he turned back at 8,000 meters. In both cases, it was their own decision. This was made clear at the very beginning.

I almost turned back three times. The last two times I felt I might very well die.

The first time I almost gave up was just after leaving camp 3. We had started walking in the early morning, before the sun came up. After the sun came up I forgot to put on my sunglasses and continued walking for over an hour. I became blinded by the snow, and my eyes hurt so much. We were between camp 3 and camp 4, at the Geneva Spur, and I could see people but could not recognize who they were. I only saw foggy images. My eyes were painful and tears kept coming. When we started for the summit at about 8:30 that night. I was using my headlamp, but still I could not see anything except the rope and the person just in front of me. I thought maybe I could not make it, but I decided to try.

‘Just take the next step," I told myself. "One step at a time."

When the sun rose, I put on my glasses with the goggles over them, but still my eyes hurt. After reaching the summit, I stayed about an hour and returned as quickly as I could. Usually snow-blindness lasts 24 hours, but at noon, the pain became even worse. I almost ran back to camp 4, on South Col, because of my eye pain. The other two summiteers came later, and we all slept at camp 4 that night. The next morning I was better.

The second time I almost gave up was after starting for the summit. I had rushed to get dressed and arrange my oxygen supply. I did everything like I had done before, but when I started climbing, suddenly I could not breathe properly. I started breathing at a very high speed. A Sherpa from another expedition, Nangyal Sherpa, was our advisor, and he quickly opened everything I was wearing: my helmet, mask, and even my clothes. He rearranged things, and then I could start breathing again; otherwise, I would not have continued.

The third time was at about 8,500 meters, just below what is called the "second summit." As we were climbing, suddenly my oxygen was cut off. A valve in my mask became clogged, and I was not getting any oxygen. I said to myself, “I think I’m going to die. Surely I’m going to die.”

Facing this life-and-death situation, I started to think about my family. My parents and brothers and sisters would cry for a few days, but they would get over it. However, I was very concerned about my wife. If something happened to me, I thought, she would have her parents and the UPF headquarters to help her. So I decided that whatever the result, I would make it an offering. I made up my mind with this strong determination.

A banner symbolizing religious and political unity in the quest for peace was displayed at the summi.Then Nangyal came and asked what was wrong. Luckily, he had an extra mask which he was carrying for some of the members of his team. He helped fit the new mask on me, and then I could start breathing again. But I had already lost about 70 percent of my strength, and I was going to give up. Then Nangyal said, “Just follow me. I’ll take care of you.” His words were a great inspiration and encouragement for me.

We had heard excellent weather forecasts in Kathmandu, and we expected to reach the summit around May 15 or 16. Because of bad weather, we postponed our assault to the top for five days. Originally, I was only planning to go to the base camp and wait for the climbers from there. I was not planning to climb to the summit because I didn't want to be a burden to the other team members. One night at base camp, however I had a vivid dream and decided to try for the summit. I also spoke with our expedition adviser, Da Galje Sherpa, and he urged me, “At least you must try. If you try and don’t make it, that’s okay, but how can you not even try?” Repeating himself, he added, “At least you must try.”

Without the support of Da Galje Sherpa, Nangyal Sherpa and their team, I know I would not have made it to the summit of Mt. Everest and I don’t think our team would have been successful either.

Finally, I decided, “I’ll do it.”

This was May 10. I left base camp on May 15. The others left a day later. Crossing the ice fall between base camp and camp 1 is very dangerous, but I kept focusing on the mission. I didn’t want the other members on the team to think, incorrectly, that I was doing this for myself, so I let Dendi carry the banner.

Summiteers (L to R): Karma Bahdaur Tamang, Gokul Thapa, Da Dendi SherpaWhen we started, I think they misjudged my strength. I did not want them to have to carry additional supplies just because of me. I could not walk as fast as the others, and this was somewhat of a problem. People who walk quickly cannot always wait for the slow ones.

Two years ago I broke my leg and I was worried that it might give me trouble. But, thankfully, it didn’t. Most climbers go up and down several times carrying supplies to camps at higher and higher altitudes. But I didn’t do this. I just climbed straight up. During my whole climb, I felt basically strong.

On the final ascent to the summit, I started walking two hours before the other two, but we ended up reaching the summit at just about the same time. I reached the top first and offered a prayer for thanksgiving. Then I took my face mask off and shouted, “One Family Under God!”

We originally planned 45 days for the expedition, but we made it to the top on May 20, in 33 days. On May 22nd we returned to the base camp.

Note: The two other expedition members who made it to the summit were Karma Bahdaur Tamang and Da Dendi Sherpa.

"Some people may think that climbing Mt. Everest is easy," Karma Bahdaur Tamanq said. "To speak these words without ever trying it is very easy. But go to the mountain and then try to speak these words. On the mountain you will see if it is easy or difficult. For people who have lots of money, it is surely easier. They can pay porters to carry everything they need: tents, sleeping bag, food, and oxygen. They can hire people to cook their meals. But still, the bottom line is that you have to walk up the tallest mountain in the world! Our expedition team was very small, and we did not have much money. We had to carry our equipment and supplies by ourselves. It was not easy; not at all."

Da Dendi Sherpa said, "I feel fortunate to be part of this expedition and I’m very grateful that UPF supported this expedition."

For background on the expedition, click here.

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