by Rajesh KC
On May 22, 2003, Kantipur newsroom was desperately waiting for our colleague Ang Chhiring Sherpa’s message from the Qomolangma. He was at the South Col preparing for his final ascension to the top of the world. But there was no communication with him for over 24 hours. Last we had heard from him was that he had suspended the first attempt due to bad weather. He might have had to withdraw his expedition if the weather continued being unfavorable. In the evening, news editor Narayan Wagle received a call on his mobile. It was from Ang Chhiring calling through his satellite phone from Qomolangma. We were reading news editor’s face anxiously. He gestured with the thumbs up¦. Hurray!! The entire room cheered. Ang Chhiring became the first South Asian journalist to climb Qomolangma or Sagarmatha (in Nepali). Qomolongma is Mt. Everest in Tibetan language.
Ang Chhiring with Kantipur flag at the top of Mt. Everest
It took 50 years for a Nepali journalist to step on top of the world first climbed by Sir Edmund Hillary and the late Tenzing Norgay in 1953.
On his fourth anniversary of scaling Mt. Everest on May 22, 2007, journalist Sherpa released his book ‘Deadline Qomolongma’ in which he has shared his feelings, experience, adventurous and pathetic moments before and after climbing the top of the world. The book, published in Nepali by Kantipur Publications, with 184 pages costs Nrs 200. It also contains several beautiful sketches, done by artist Dewendra Pandey, including some of his mountaineering photographs.
Ang Chhiring has proved that the Sherpas are not only porters and mountaineers as the world believes, but can also excel in other professions as well. Ang Chhiring himself became a journalist who successfully reported live with the ‘Qomolangma’ dateline. Being a native of Solukhumbu, he has also been able to describe culture, religion, feelings and lifestyle of internationally popular Sherpa community in his book.
By publishing Qomolangma diary, he has also filled the space of bookshelf that hitherto lacked book on mountaineering through Nepali perspective.
Ang Chhiring’s journalism career started in 1995 as executive editor in a local news magazine, Sagaramatha Times, which was launched to publicize local activities. Later he joined the largest national daily ‘Kantipur’ to cover the mountaineering beat. “All Sherpas climb mountains, but Ang Chhiring cannot, so he joined us,” he recounts his colleagues as saying. Ang Chhiring took it as a challenge. This acted as catalyst since he had been nursing a dream of summiting the Everest since childhood.
The book is also a descriptive journal of the Everest. He has been able to describe the preparedness for expedition, climbing route, camps, South Col, South Summit, scenic high Himalayas to Tibetan plateau, Hillary Step, Ice Fall, weather condition, temperatures of various altitude, etc. His diary simultaneously satisfies readers’ curiosity about the Everest climbing. ‘Being a first reader of this creation on mountaineering, I felt like I hold the record’ writes Kantipur editor Narayan Wagle in his foreword. It is indeed a finely written experience.
With Kantipur colleagues at Kathmandu airport
In chapter 21, Ang Chhiring tells his pathetic moment as he runs out of oxygen at 8500 meters soon after descending from the summit. As the weather worsened at Hillary Step, his only partner Kainla warns him that he would leave Ang Chhiring alone if he did not hurry. At the same time, he encountered icy storm with moving clouds causing poor visibility. His body lost energy and it was difficult to move even a single step. Sometimes he fell from the cliff and found himself clinging by a safety rope. “Kainla Dai, please don’t leave me here alone to die,” he pleaded to his associate several times. “You know Pasang Lhamu Sherpa died at the same place where you are standing now. She ran out of oxygen,” Ang Chhiring quotes Kainla Dai as yelling at him. Neither of them knew, at that time, that Ang Chhiring, had already run out of oxygen!
With Rimpoche of Tengboche monastery
He has experienced his journey to the Everest simultaneously as a foreign climber, a team leader, a Sherpa porter and a traveling journalist. It was his solo expedition so he felt like a foreign climber going to create a record. He was a team leader as no one was there to lead him while he was struggling to survive. He encounters situations like a porter with limited gears due to limited budget. And yet somehow, he filed the news and reports live on radio from various locations and situations everyday.
‘Deadline Qomolangma’ is a non-fiction writing that sounds a work of fiction. The book is a ‘mountaineering simulator’ for mountaineers. It is an experience to the Everest enthusiast like me who cannot climb. In all, this book is not only a treat for mountain enthusiasts but also an insider’s portrayal of life and culture in the region.
Mt. Pumori seen from camp 2
Khumbu Ice Fall
Climbing to camp 3
Near Camp 3
With team members Sherab Jangbu (left) and Mindu Sherpa
Heading for South Col
South Col (Camp 4)
On the top of the Everest on May 22 2003 at 1200 hours
Reporting live on Kantipur FM from South Col
Descending from Camp 3
Mt. Everest viewed from the way to camp 2
Welcomed by friends in Everest BC
Interviewed by NTV
Kantipur Publications Director Binod Raj Gyawali welcoming Ang Chhiring (left) at Kantipur Complex, MD Kailash Sirohiya also seen in the background. Lukla Felicitations (right).
Ang Chhiring’s birth place Shergha in Solu
With Sir Edmund Hillary (photo: Navaraj Wagle)
With Babu Chhiri Sherpa
With Tashi Tenzing (left) and Apa Sherpa (right)
Everest view from Renjola pass
All pictures courtesy: Ang Chhiring Sherpa
He can be reached at angchhering(at)yahoo.com