Nepali mountaineer Wongchu Sherpa, who played a significant role in Everest expedition of city-based mountaineering organization Giripremi, died in Kathmandu on December 30 at the age of 52.
Wongchu had been battling cancer for last two years and had shifted to Pune for advanced treatment earlier this year.
Wongchu managed to climb Mt Everest twice in his life, besides climbing from 8,000-metre peaks in Himalayas like Mt Dhaulagiri, Mt Annapurna, Mt Makalu, Mt Shishapangma and Mt Cho Oyu. He was also known for his record of staying above 7,000 metres of altitude for 18 days consecutively.
Talking about his contribution, Giripremi’s expedition leader Umesh Zirpe said, “When I went to Nepal in 2008 to do some basic research for our Everest expedition, I approached many Sherpa agencies in Kathmandu. But most of them discouraged me saying they could not guarantee success and it was difficult for a group of 12 to climb in one go. Wongchu had a different approach. He told me it would be his responsibility to bring every single mountaineer back home. His contribution in the search and rescue operation during 1996 tragedy on Mt Everest was significant,” said Zirpe.
Wongchu was also the leader of the Everest cleaning expedition organised by Government of Nepal. “His contribution to the protection of environment surrounding areas of Mt Everest was critical. He successfully hosted the meeting of Nepal cabinet ministers at the base camp of Mt Everest. The meeting had drawn the attention of all the countries in the world towards the effects pollution and global warming on Himalayas and its high altitude peaks. Most of his recommendations about the protection of the environment were accepted and implemented by the Cabinet. Liability to bring back all the garbage during Everest expedition on the expedition teams was one of them,” said Zirpe.
Wongchu was also credited with assisting several filming expeditions by BBC and Lonely Planet on Everest. Director David Breashears had also credited Wongchu and his crew for taking the heavy cameras to the top of Everest for his film Everest.
Prior to his death, Wongchu had been arranging finances to build a hospital in his village Changba that lies at a height of 3,500 metres north of Kathmandu. “After the disastrous earthquake in Nepal, he was shifted to Pune for his further treatment on cancer. He left for Nepal in October. Unfortunately, he couldn’t recover completely. He was a great leader, environmentalist, socialist, great mountaineer and a pleasing personality. His demise has left a huge void in the area of organisation of extreme altitude mountaineering expeditions,” said Zirpe.