Thursday, May 31, 2007

Benefit for Sherpas

 They scaled Mount Everest last month as part of the SuperSherpas
Expedition and now Apa Sherpa and Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa are trying to
raise money to help the Sherpa community in Nepal.

The "Go to New Heights" benefit is set for June 20, 6 p.m., at the
Fort Douglas Commander's House on the University of Utah campus.

Tickets are $100 per person, with proceeds going toward
publication of the book, "The SuperSherpas: Our Story." Funds from
the sale of that book will benefit educational programs back in Nepal.

The event includes dinner and an auction of items used during the
all-Sherpa team's summit of the world's tallest mountain.

For tickets, call 801-585-9786 or go to

More photos ...

All of the following photos come to you courtesy of SuperSherpas LLC.


Apa (left) and Lhakpa celebrate after their summit.

Apa relaxes in a tent, giving thumbs up after summit.

The team pauses at the summit.

Team member takes video for a documentary about the expedition.

A sample of the steep, tricky terrain climbers face on Everest.

Apa, looking relaxed above the clouds.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Welcome home

By, Stephen Speckman

While Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa climbed the world's tallest peak earlier
this month, his wife Fulli was back at home in Draper climbing her
own mountain, one made up of the time and distance that had separated
her for so long from her husband and three children in Nepal.

(Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa gets a warm welcome home - photo by,
Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News)

It had been six months since she had seen her children, Ang Dawa,
Nima and Tashi - they were at a boarding school in Katmandu until
their parents were able to successfully navigate immigration laws to
secure the proper visas. And after two months without Lhakpa, Fulli
was at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Wednesday to
embrace her entire family.

"I'm so sad," she said about the wait. "Now, I'm happy."

Lhakpa said it was hard getting his children out of Nepal and to
their new home in Utah. He thanked Utahns Jerry Mika and Roger Kehr
for their help with all of the red tape.

"I'm so very happy," Lhakpa said. "Everyone is together."

Lhakpa and fellow Draper resident Apa Sherpa made history May 16
in Nepal when they led an all-Sherpa team of climbers, dubbed the
SuperSherpas Expedition, to the summit of Mount Everest.

(Apa Sherpa greets well wishers at Salt Lake City International
Airport -- photo by, Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News)

For Apa's 17th Everest summit (a world record), he and Lhakpa also
helped recover the bodies of two Korean climbers. Base-camp manager
Jerry Mika said this season has been a particularly deadly one on
Everest, which claimed the lives of three people close to members of
the SuperSherpas team.

Normally, foreign travelers pay huge sums of money to outfitters
for a go at reaching the mountain's 29,035-foot peak. Members of
Nepal's isolated Sherpa community, living in the high Himalayas, are
typically hired by the outfitters as porters.

Sherpas, who often share the same last name although they are not
directly related, carry heavy loads so that the foreign climbers can
stay light, increasing the chance that they will reach the summit.
The Sherpas endure the same extreme weather conditions as their
clients. And Sherpas, like Lhakpa and Apa, set ropes for climbers,
keep them out of danger and even rescue Westerners who get in trouble
on the mountain.

But after the high-paying customers reach the peak, all the glory
in the media goes to them, while Sherpas comparatively get little

"They don't mention anything about Sherpas," Apa Sherpa said. "I
don't know why."

The pay for Sherpas, considered the world's best high-altitude
climbers, is often only a small fraction of what climbers pay for the
Everest experience.

So the twist for this expedition was that Mika and other Utahns -
Westerners - were the support crew for the Sherpas. The goal was to
raise awareness of Nepal's Sherpa community and the struggles they
face in getting health care for their families and an education for
their children.

Just as sweet as summiting Everest, Apa and Lhakpa were able to
leave behind $2,500 each in donated money for education and medical
needs in their hometowns before heading back to Utah.

(The welcoming party for Utah members of the SuperSherpas Expedition
-- photo by, Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News)

At the Salt Lake City International Airport, Apa's wife Yangjin
and their three children, Tenzing, Pemba and Dawa, were relieved to
have Dad back home.

"My heart feels good and happy," Yangjin said.

Some in Apa and Lhakpa's families are still learning English. Most
of their children will be or are attending schools in Draper. Apa
works for an outdoor retailer, and since moving to Utah Lhakpa has
been employed by Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort's coffee house Peak

A book and documentary are in the works about the SuperSherpas
expedition. One goal of those two projects is for more people beyond
the climbing community to learn about Sherpas. Fund-raising efforts
will continue in order to help Sherpas back in Nepal.

"It was about the Sherpas," said Rulon Bunker, who was part of the
support crew at base camp on Everest. "Our mission was to support the

Jerry Mika, who returned Wednesday with Apa and Lhakpa, was in
Katmandu when the two Sherpas were paraded through the streets as
heroes and cheered by Nepalese dignitaries and citizens.

"Hopefully, Salt Lake City welcomes these Sherpas like Nepal did,"
Mika said.

The moment in Katmandu is something that will stay a lifetime with
Apa Sherpa.

"All the Nepalese people are very proud," he said.

Apa is hopeful the book and documentary about the team will change
the way the world views Sherpas and what it knows about them.

The medical community also will be learning more about Sherpas
based on research conducted during the expedition to figure out why
Sherpas perform so much better than anyone else under extreme
physical and mental stress at high altitudes.

As for Fulli and Yangjin, having their husbands home means that
their prayers were answered - and that the revered Mount Everest,
known to Sherpas as Chomolungma, or "Goddess Mother of the Land," had
a hand in delivering these two fathers back to their families, safe
and alive.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Coming home

Apa Sherpa, Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa and Jerry Mika, members of the SuperSherpas Expedition, will be arriving in Salt Lake City Wednesday morning. Lhakpa will be bringing his three children from Nepal back to his home in Utah. Apa and Lhakpa were part of the first all-Sherpa summit team earlier this month to reach the top of Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak.

Congratulations to the team - and, welcome home to Apa, Lhakpa and Jerry.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Studying Sherpas

(Note: Nu Skin Enterprises sent out a reminder today about the scientific research being done on the all-Sherpa team that recently reached the summit of Mount Everest - below is a summary of their press release.)

A five-pound piece of equipment among the hundreds of pounds of gear used by the SuperSherpas Expedition may soon give the scientific world a glimpse into why a small group of climbers from Nepal can handle physical stress at high altitudes so much better than experienced mountaineers from all over the world.

The so-called Pharmanex Biophotonic Scanner was used during the SuperSherpas recent successful summit of Mount Everest. The intent was to study cellular damage from "oxidative stress" experienced during high-altitude climbing by members of the all-Sherpa team, including two Sherpas who now live in Utah.

On May 16 at around 9 a.m. in Nepal, a SuperSherpas summit team, led by Utahns Apa Sherpa and Lhakpa Sherpa, reached the summit of Everest. Along the way, a team of Utah researchers used the scanner as a non-invasive means of measuring antioxidant levels in the Sherpas.

"By using the scanner on their expedition, the SuperSherpas team members and researchers may gain a greater understanding of how antioxidants work and what role they play in the unique physiology of Sherpas versus other high-altitude climbers," said Dr. Joe Chang, chief scientific officer of Nu Skin Enterprises.

The scanner is described as a "cutting-edge testing tool that safely and non-invasively measures carotenoid levels in living tissue, providing an indication correlated with a person's overall antioxidant levels. Antioxidants help neutralize damage from free radicals within living tissue," according to the Nu Skin release.

For more information about the scanner, visit the Web site,

Friday, May 18, 2007

No walk in the park ...

Base camp manager, Jerry Mika, sent along the photo below of the SuperSherpas summit team navigating Mount Everest. The team should be back in Utah within the next few weeks. For more on their adventures, see the blog entries below. Enjoy the photo.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

At base camp, headed home soon

(note: new photos have been posted to the entry below this one)

By, Stephen Speckman

After reaching the summit this week of the world's tallest peak,
Utahns Apa Sherpa and Lhakpa Sherpa took part in what was a grim
reminder of how Mount Everest can claim lives in an instant.

Summit team members of the SuperSherpas Expedition, led by Apa and
Lhakpa, reached the 29,035-foot peak at about 9 a.m. Wednesday in
Nepal. Around the same time, an avalanche hit near base camp, where
a SuperSherpas celebration included banging on pots.

"It seemed like the gods were chiming in their own way," Roger
Kehr said about the avalanche.

There was no direct hit on the camp and everyone there came away
uninjured as the SuperSherpas and other teams celebrated the world's
first all-Sherpa team ascent of Everest. The climb also marked Apa's
17th successful summit, a number that no one in history has matched.

But the so-called gods had a different message for members of a
team of Korean climbers, who lost two people to the mountain this
week. Oh Hee-joon, 37, and Lee Hyun-jo, 34, both died, either in a
separate avalanche as reported by Apa or, according to two Web sites
devoted to Everest news, in a fall while attempting to summit.

Every year foreigners and Sherpas die on Everest and some of the
bodies are never found. If they're found, like the two Korean
climbers, Herculean efforts are made to get them off the mountain.

Apa and Lhakpa were on their way to base camp when they came upon
what was most likely a recovery effort. They helped to lower the two
climbers down the infamous Icefall, an obstacle that is in constant
motion. It's an area, located not far from base camp, where climbers
remain as quiet as possible out of fear a loud noise will cause a
chunk of the icy formation to shift or break off.

"I lost three friends last year on that ice fall," said Kehr, who
was with the SuperSherpas team until he became ill and had to return
to Utah.

The bodies of the two Koreans were cared for, apparently without
incident, and as of Thursday afternoon in Utah (Nepal is 12 hours
ahead of Utah) the entire SuperSherpas team was back at base camp,
tired, recovering from stomach problems in two cases, but safe and

"This all started with a dream that somehow we, the team, could
change the way the world looked at the Sherpa and Nepali people,"
Kehr said. "We're sort of pinching ourselves. People will finally get
to understand that the word Sherpa refers to an incredible group of
human beings and not just a bunch of porters. It's got all the pieces
of a great story."

It's estimated that the SuperSherpas team will reach Katmandu
around May 19 for a "hero's welcome" there. Within the next few weeks
Apa and Lhakpa, along with his three children currently still living
in Nepal, should be back in Utah.