Nepalese Kanchha Sherpa, now 90, is the last survivor of the expedition led by mountaineers Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, the first to conquer the world’s highest mountain, Everest, in 1953. This is the story of an unprecedented adventure …
1 – Who is Kanchha Sherpa?
Kanchha Sherpa was one of the key members of the historic 1953 Everest Expedition, which culminated in the first successful ascent of the roof of the world by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Originally from Nepal, Kanchha Sherpa was an experienced mountaineer and a respected mountain guide in the Himalayan region. He was known for his physical strength, exceptional stamina and expertise in high-altitude navigation.
Sherpa was born in the Solu-Khumbu district of Nepal, a region close to Everest, and grew up surrounded by the majestic Himalayan mountains. From an early age, he was introduced to the rudiments of mountaineering and developed a deep passion for climbing. His experience of the region’s difficult trails and dizzying peaks made him a trusted guide and invaluable companion for climbers seeking to conquer the highest peaks.
The Everest Expedition with Sherpa (second from right, last row seated), 1953.
2 – Climbing Everest
During the 1953 expedition, Kanchha Sherpa played a crucial role in preparing the base camp and organising the team’s logistics. As an experienced guide, he knew the challenges and dangers the climbers would face in their attempt to climb Everest. He helped set up the high camps and oversaw the transport of essential equipment, helping to create the conditions necessary for the expedition’s success.
On 29 May 1953, Kanchha Sherpa accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on their final ascent to the summit of Everest. His role was to support the climbers in terms of safety, navigation and resource management. He was essential in guiding the team through icy crevasses, steep slopes and tricky passages. Finally, when Hillary and Norgay reached the summit, Kanchha Sherpa shared their joy and pride in achieving this historic feat.
3 – The dangers of climbing Everest today
Climbing Everest remains an extremely dangerous undertaking, even today. Despite advances in technology and mountaineering techniques, the mountain retains its unforgiving and demanding nature. Climbers face challenges such as extreme altitude, freezing temperatures, avalanches, crevasses and sudden storms.
With the growing popularity of Everest climbing, the dangers have become even more worrying. Overcrowding on the mountain has led to traffic jams on the ascent routes, which can considerably increase the risks for climbers. Long waits in the “Death Zone”, where oxygen is scarce, can lead to the depletion of oxygen reserves and increase the risk of frostbite, hypothermia and mountain sickness.
Avalanches remain a constant threat on Everest. Changing weather conditions and melting glaciers have contributed to the instability of the slopes, making climbers more vulnerable to deadly snowflows. Crevasses, hidden beneath the glaciers, also represent a serious danger. A poor assessment of the terrain or a navigational error can lead to a fall into a deep crevasse, resulting in serious injury or even death.
What’s more, climbing Everest requires excellent physical condition, adequate preparation and previous experience at high altitude. Unfortunately, some climbers, attracted by the challenge and fame, underestimate these requirements and embark on the climb without the necessary skills. This can lead to accidents, failed ascents and sometimes even tragic loss.
4 – A remarkable challenge, but not to be taken lightly…
In conclusion, Kanchha Sherpa was part of the historic 1953 Everest Expedition and played a vital role in its success. His contribution as an experienced guide and mountain expert was invaluable. However, it is important to recognise that climbing Everest remains an extremely dangerous activity. Climbers must take into account the inherent risks of the mountain and prepare themselves appropriately. Current hazards, such as overcrowding, avalanches and unpredictable weather conditions, require extra caution and a realistic assessment of individual abilities. Everest is a magnificent mountain, but its ascent should never be taken lightly.