About Lhakpa Gelu
Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa was born around June 23, 1967, in the Solu Khumbu district in Jubing Kharikhola, Nepal. The ethnic Sherpas of Nepal do not record birth dates, so the exact date of his birth is not known.
Lhakpa Gelu is best known for holding a world speed record on Mount Everest, climbing from base camp to the summit in just 10 hours, 56 minutes, 46 seconds, on May 26, 2003. But his achievements in mountaineering, particularly on Everest, do not end there. He has reached the summit of Everest fourteen times and has scaled many other high peaks in the Himalaya and abroad. See Climbing.
Lhakpa Gelu's parents, Tharke and Yangji Sherpa, worked on their own farm in an area where there were no schools. Kharikhola lies on the steep hills where potatoes, maize, wheat and vegetables are grown. Although they lacked any formal education, Tharke and Yangji worked hard so they could provide an education for their children until fourth grade at the elementary school built by Sir Edmund Hillary. Getting to the only school in the area required a two and a half hour walk up hill. There were also no hospitals and in 1991, Lhakpa Gelu's father passed away from cancer.
Lhakpa Gelu grew up with four brothers and a sister, Fulamu. His oldest brother, Lhakpa Dendi, died in 1991 in an avalanche while climbing Annapurna 1 with a Korean expedition. His brother, Jangbu, has climbed to the top of Everest ten times, Danurbu, six times, and Pasang Geljen, one time, making a total of thirty-one Everest summits in the family.
The Sherpas are an ethnic group, direct descendents of people of the eastern Tibetan region who migrated across the Himalaya in the 16th century. In Tibetan, Sherpa means "men of the east." The term 'sherpa' (lower case 's') is also used to refer to local people, typically men, employed as porters or guides for mountaineering expeditions in the Himalaya. Many of Nepal's Sherpas reside in the Khumbu Valley, the gateway to the southern side of Everest in Nepal.
A sherpa is not necessarily a member of the Sherpa ethnic group and not all Sherpas are climbers.
In 1990, Lhakpa Gelu married Fuli Sherpa and they have two sons, Ang Dawa (22) and Ngima Nuru (17), and a daughter, Mingma Tashi (15).
Their dream was to move their family to the United States where their children could get an education and not grow up to be climbing Sherpas. Working as a Sherpa on Everest is extremely hard work and dangerous. Most of those who die on Everest are Sherpas, who carry heavy loads up and down the mountain for expeditions. The more time spent on the mountain, the higher the risk of being struck by a falling rock or caught in an avalanche. And Sherpas are paid far less than Western guides.
Lhakpa Gelu first visited the US in 2001 for five months with the help of Martha and Nancy Fagin after Nancy climbed Mount Everest. Despite his poor English, he found a job at an Indian restaurant in California. In 2005, he returned to the US, this time with his wife, and they became residents of the country. Two years later, he moved his kids to Utah through the generous support of Lance Bunker, who lives in Salt Lake City. There he worked at Lance Bunker’s company, delivered pizzas at Pizza Hut and worked in a coffee shop at Snowbird Ski Resort and for the Coca Cola Company.
While in Utah, Ang Dawa graduated from Alta High School, becoming the first high school graduate from Lhakpa’s ancestry. The family moved to Washington, where Lhakpa Gelu began working as a mountain guide for Alpine Ascents International and Adventure Ascents, a company he co-founded in 2013.
Lhakpa Gelu has since left Alpine Ascents to focus more of his time on The Wildberry Restaurant , where he and his family work together seasonally from May to October. Wildberry is located within a mile from the entrance of Mt. Rainier National Park, where Lhakpa Gelu has been many times when he worked for Alpine Ascents. They specialize in Himalayan foods, such as momos, stews and thali, and serve sandwiches, salads and burgers as well.
While proud of his accomplishments as a mountaineer, Lhakpa Gelu's passion is in raising money for the Lhakpa Gelu Foundation, a charitable organization he founded to help improve education for the people, particularly the children, in his hometown of Kharikola. The immediate need is for three English teachers. The goal of the organization is to provide them an education that they otherwise would not have. Lhakpa Gelu believes education is an essential part of life.