Saturday 20 January 2018

Heroes of the high plateau appeal to Irish adventurers to visit Nepal

Two of the world's greatest extreme climbers share their unsung stories with Ireland, writes Claire Mc Cormack

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Cian O’Brolchain, Pasang Tenzing Sherpa, John Burke and Gavan Hennigan on the summit of Ama Dablam with Everest in the background
HIGH ACHIEVERS: Cian O’Brolchain, Pasang Tenzing Sherpa, John Burke and Gavan Hennigan on the summit of Ama Dablam with Everest in the background
HIGH ACHIEVERS: Flying the flag

Claire McCormack

Theirs is the untold story of the devastating Mount Everest disaster recently depicted in a Hollywood blockbuster movie.

Mingma Tsiri Sherpa and Pasang Tenzing Sherpa come from a famous Sherpa family of seven brothers who between them have climbed Everest 54 times - a Guinness World Record.

They are considered among the most experienced and accomplished climbers currently trekking the high plateau.

Almost two decades ago, on May 10, 1996, eight people died when they were caught in a blizzard while trying to ascend or descend from the summit of Mount Everest - earth's highest mountain.

During the vast rescue operation, Mingma (45) spent 48 hours solid in the 'death zone', an altitude where there is not enough oxygen for humans to breathe, helping people caught in disaster.

But they say their contribution never made the Hollywood version of events.

Now, the two brothers are in Ireland to share their story of growing up climbing the biggest mountains in the world.

They will also tell of rescuing people in the death zone and of future plans for climbing and trekking in the Himalayas in the hope of helping the Sherpas of Nepal, a nation still recovering from the devastating earthquake earlier this year.

The brothers were heavily involved in co-ordinating rescues after the earthquake which claimed the lives more than 9,000 people.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Pasang (31), said: "We are here to promote our new business, Ascent Himalayas, and to promote Nepal.

"Most people think that after the earthquake Nepal is dangerous, but we are here to tell people that it is really safe and people are most welcome to come and visit and to climb with us. Nepal is depending on tourism to fully recover."

Mingma has successfully climbed 29 summits, all 8,000 metres high or more. Pasang has 16 years' climbing experience and was one of the first Nepalese to become a mountain guide.

However, they claim their efforts, and the efforts of generations before them, have been largely ignored in the history books.

In 2012, Mingma set up Ascent Himalayas, largely supported by Irish clients. The company runs treks and expeditions to Everest, Manaslu and Ama Dablam.

Irish climbers make up the bulk of their clientele.

Last month, they completed a Himalayan ascent with Irish climbers John Burke, Cian O'Brolchain and Gavan Hennigan.

Mr Burke, a mountaineer and managing director of the Armada Hotel at Spanish Point, Co Clare, said: "Mingma is probably one of the most experienced mountaineers in the world, but he has stayed below the radar because he's always been in the shadows of big international companies.

"He was one of the lead coordinators of the real rescue story which the Everest movie is based on, but the film showed a lot of western guys doing the rescues. In reality, the Sherpas are the ones who can survive in these conditions.

"They still spend their lives keeping people safe and allowing people like us to fulfil our dreams."

Over the next three weeks, the brothers will give talks in Dublin, Sligo, Galway, Cork and Kerry.

Mingma said: "The Irish are very strong climbers, we enjoy climbing with them. They are always very prepared and train for months in the Irish mountains or the Alps before expedition."

Describing the feeling of reaching the summit of Ama Dablam Cian O'Brolchain said: "It was amazing. It was a mountain I always wanted to climb and it was the first time I climbed with Irish guys in the Himalayas, so it was just wonderful," he said.

"To be there with my friends, Mingma and Pasang, and the guys, surrounded by Everest and other mountains you want to climb in the future was spine-tingling. It's been such a hard year for Nepal so it was a really special moment," he said.

Sunday Independent

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