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Apa Sherpa's 15 summits - a tale of skill and survival
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May 31, 2005 19: 29 EST
Apa Sherpa is world record holder of most Everest summits: 15 with last night's. He is also a really nice guy. The Nepalese climber is a low key man, and climbing Everest is his job.

One thing that strikes you with the Sherpas is that they don't die very often. Really, if you look at the number of them climbing Everest and the ratio of exposure they have compared to non-Sherpa climbers, their survival rate is pretty remarkable.

Weather forecasts

It's not all in their genes. In fact, the Sherpas refused to touch weather forecasts until only a few years back, simply because the old forecasts were incorrect. Not until the arrival of Adventureweather, and some very exact storm alerts, did the Sherpas turn around and began to watch the forecasts.

In 2003, even Wally Berg noted their reaction to the forecasts, “It’s really interesting this year, for the first time ever at Everest, the Sherpas take the weather forecast that comes from the members seriously. I’ve never seen them do that – they normally think it’s a joke.”

Bad oxygen

Another striking thing is that Sherpas often refuse bad oxygen. You'll notice that expeditions often distribute Russian Poisk to their Sherpa climbers, and use untested and unproven stuff like Summit Oxygen or Henry Todd's Indian bottles for themselves and/or their clients. There - another clue to Sherpas' survival rate.

The Everest top achievers

Guys like Apa know what it's all about. They are the ones running around the mountain saving climbers lives; distributing warm jackets and hot chocolate to people sleeping in the snow. When the season is over - they get a summit tip, a leftover down jacket, and a new shool perhaps. If they were born in US, they'd be type A achievers; doctors, athletes and rocket scientists. Their kids would go to Harvard and they'd make six figure checks.

Sherpa wisdom

Climbers should listen more to their Sherpas than to some of the bandit western "expedition leaders" on the mountain. A good Sherpa with a bad English is better than a bad expedition leader with a good English. You'll notice the difference in the deathzone, when your leader is gone and someone yells at you in broken English to get up and get down.

There's a reason these guys climb Everest over and over, and survive it every time. You go, Apa.

American climbers Chuck Huss, Dan Smith, Rob Chang, and John Gray joined Apa on the “Everest Climbing for a Cure Expedition 2005”. The expedition is part of an organization dedicated to helping cure breast cancer. Apa is known as "Mr. Everest" because he has visited the top of the world 15 times in 15 years. He has worked in the mountains as a trekker, porter, guide, and climber for many years. With his vast experience, and gentle but powerful leadership, there is no question why Apa Sherpa was chosen to be the Sirdar for this Everest climb. "If anybody can get us to the top, it's Apa,'' Huss said.

But the other members of the expedition, such as Rob Chang and Chuck Huss, also brought extensive Everest knowledge to the table. While this was Rob’s second attempt, Huss also has had a few experiences on the mountain: “Everest is well known, and to me this is a personal battle I have with the mountain,'' Huss said. "I've engaged it three times, and the mountain has won all three times." Last night John Gray summited with Apa, no word yet on the other climbers.

Image of Apa Sherpa, courtesy of climbingforacure.com.

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