Friday, May 29, 2020

Story of A Climber Who Once Held World Record As A Youngest Everest Climber : Shambhu Tamang

Shambhu Tamang Photographed in 2017 - Mani Tamang
Today, May 29 is the International Mt. Everest Day, declared by Nepal Government back in 2008. Though it's not popular in international level, Nepal commemorates this day with some events. This year such events are not taking place due to lockdown caused by Corona Virus.  Through this blog post, I would like to share the story of rather unknown Nepali climbing hero Shambhu Tamang.

While I was in school, I was only good at quiz contest that would take place once a year in a special event the school used to organize.  Most students had no other chance to be part of extra curricular activity mainly because there were too many students to provide such facility with scarcely limited resources the school had. In the nationwide final exam of grade 10 we were 120 students from our class, all learned in a same class room. Teachers would not know most of their students' by names as there were just too many of us.

In one occasion, I had access to read a general knowledge book which most probably was lend to me by a senior student who happened to be my distant relative.  There I had read some facts like Mt. Everest was first climbed by Tenzing Norgya Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary.  Further somewhere I read World's tallest peak is climbed by Shambhu Tamang at the age of 18 setting a world record as a youngest climber. A Tamang! He sounded as if he was my own uncle or brother, but, I never shared that feeling to anyone.  I used to hear stories my grandfather used to tell that his father or grandfather was hired by government to carry war logistics for Nepal army while Nepal had war with Tibet in the area currently an official border in the north of Kathmandu.  Later I find that, the war has taken in 1850s.  Tamang, a large Tibeto-Burman origin native people of the Himalaya was never allowed in government services including in Nepal army.  They were used as a porter to carry cars from India border to Kathamndu city while there was no road connection to bring the wheeled vehicle.  They were used as the hard working labors to build buildings and things of the comfort by the ruling class / caste during the Rana regime that lasted till 1950.

Usage of these people as low level work force came to mountain tourism of the country that laid foundation in early 1950s.  The last surviving member of 29 May 1953 Everest Climbing Kanchha Sherpa in an interview, once quoted that, the expedition had used some 1200 porters to carry the supply from Kathmandu. They were gathered in mass at the open field of Kathmandu.  They were all Tamangs. The Tamang porters carried the supply up to Namche Bazaar.  From there on, the Sherpas took over the job.  That trend set by early expedition prevail till date to some level that large number of expedition and trekking porters still come from Tamang community.  In the mid hill cities as well, they are the main work force when it comes laborious tasks like carrying things from here to there.  Just few days ago, during locked down, a photo of a street porter found dead presumably by hunger became quite viral in Nepalis' Facebook walls, he had no family, neither a permanent place to live. Photo showed deceased man holding his sole possession the Namlo (a stripe that goes over forehead while carrying a load) was kept next to his heart. Not to surprise, he turned out to be a Tamang man known by local business owners and people in Kirtipur who hired him when needed. Amidst such an impoverished reality his community had, how this young Tamang fellow had suddenly reached to the summit of the Mt. Everest? Could be an interesting story; worth to perceiver today the 'International Mt Everest Day'.

Shambhu was 17 years 6 months old on the day of May 05, 1973 while he set his foot on the summit of Mt Everest along with 4 other climbers from Nepal- Italian Everest climbing mission.  As the first successful Everest event for Italians this news was spread everywhere possible then.  However, the expedition project seems to be unaware of setting world record of young climber as Shambhu himself says – 'I was there to fulfill my duty, never thought to set a world record or make my own name big'.  As his saying itself, he is very humble, doesn't use any of the social medias as much and he enjoys the retired life with his small family in Kathmandu.  He further said that, it took some time to really know if it was a world record. As the news were published with names and ages of each climbers and concerned people paid attention, his name was also published in general knowledge books like the one I had chance to read. 

Three Members of 1973 Italian Everest Team
Shambhu in the Center, Photo: Online Sources
Shambhu was a member of an average family of middle hills of Sindhupalchok district not very far from Kathamndu. His maternal uncle had some association with country's capital so he had chance to come to Kathamndu for schooling purpose.  With the guidance of senior relatives he had gotten scholarship to learn Italian in Italy itself when he was 14.  Back in Italy, he learned that his main sponsor was due to climb Mt. Everest in the near future. Then he tagged with his team to learn climbing and adventure activities.  Before climbing Everest, Shambhu was employed by a team to scale Mt. Makalu, the 5th tallest mountain of the world in 1971 which let him reach near 8000 meter. He was only 16 then.  The following year, he was employed by failed Everest Climbing of Argentinians that also reached near 8000 meters before turning back.  So he had earned adequate confidence to be part of the more successful Everest Climbing of the 1973.  Continuing his career as a mountain guide he climbed the world's tallest peak for the second time in the odd season of August in 1985.  He was the key member for making successful climbing of the Mt. Everest by Nepal Army in 1988 that happened during tri-national Everest climbing teamed by Nepal, China and Japan which for the first time traversed the mountain from South to North and vice versa on the same occasion. 

Since then he got retired from climbing.  Despite being climbing veteran he has contributed remarkably to the mountaineering section of the country as am exemplary climber, social worker and trainer.  He was one of the members to envision the utter need of Alpine club for a Himalayan country now we know as NMA (Nepal Mountaineering Association).  Shambu Tamang's record was replaced by another young climber Temba Chhiri Sherpa in 2001 who bagged the Everest from North side at the age of only 16. There are few other climbers who have climbed the peak in even younger ages. It's a very normal process to surpass any kind of world records but admiration to the history makers should be kept alive in our minds particularly if we are in same course of profession or interest. 

Friday, May 31, 2019

Lobuche East Peak Climbing 2019, Autumn Itinerary

Lobuche East Peak (6119 meters)
Climbing Itinerary 2019 October 

Join this easy to moderate one day climbing trip from advance base camp to summit (6119 meters) with local sherpa guides. We have two confirmed clients for the following itinerary who are taking Lobuche East as training and meeting with their 2020 Mt. Everest climbing trip guides, prior to attempt Everest in following season. Check out the following confirmed dates and Itinerary with beautiful trek to Everest base camp, yet it can be customized in case you make plan to extend or explore other area while joining the climbing.  

Photo: 2019 May, Guide : Ang Furi Sherpa 

Itinerary - 

Day 01, October 04:  Arrival in Kathmandu (1350 meters) 
Day 02, October 05:  Kathmandu meet other members and guides
Day 03, Kathmandu to Lukla flight short trek to Phakding or Monjo 
Day 04, Trek to Namche Bazaar (3400 meters) 
Day 05, Rest for acclimatization at Namche Bazaar 
Day 06, Trek to Phortse 
Day 07, Trek to Dingboche (4400 meters) 
Day 08, Rest  for acclimatization 
Day 09, Trek to Lobuche (4900 meters) 
Day 10, Trek to Gorakshep (5100 meters) - visit Everest base ccamp 
Day 11, Hike Kalapattar and trek to Lobuche advance camp (5400 meters)
Day 12, Rest day, planning and training 
Day 13, Climb the peak and return to base camp (Summit 6119 meters) 
Day 14, Trek to Tengboche 
Day 15, Trek to Namche Bazaar 
Day 16, Trek to Lukla 
Day 17, Fly out of Lukla to Kathmandu 
Day 18, October 21 : Extra day in Kathmandu 
Day 19, Return Home 

Trip Cost U S $ 2300.00 
Included - Kathmandu hotels, On trail meals and accommodation from Lukla and Lukla including tents at base camp, climbing equipment except climbing boots (can rent in Kathmandu), experienced climbing guides, Climbing permit, Trekking permits, Flight (Kathmandu - Lukla - Kathamndu) 

Send message or mail to for further information. 
Lobuche Climbing scene @Ang Furi Sherpa 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

An Introduction to Budhhichitta Mala Beads

Among the Tibetan or Himalayan Buddhist followers, one of 
Buddhichita Beads with center bead indicating Om 
the common ways of keeping up their practice is to possess a set of prayer bead which they use counting and praying during special occasions.  Prayer beads are called Japa Mala in Sanskrit.  Based on places, teachers and practitioners themselves, Japa Mala can be metal, stone, fruits, wood and so forth. 

According to Himalayan Buddhist tradition and belief, malas made from fruits of Boddhichitta plant is the best.  And a little known place of Timal (or Temal) in Central Nepal is the only place from where beads of Boddhichitta comes from. Timal is home of native Tamang people who refer Boddhichita Mala as Thenga or Frengba in their own dialect.  Interesting enough is that, why would a religious sect that emerged in Tibet, that now continuously flourish as one of the strongest spiritual belief systems in the world, be connected with virtually unknown Nepal's hilly remote village?  This piece is aiming to illustrate background about it.   

To begin with, we need to trace back the origin of Tibetan Buddhism.  It was king Thri Song Dechhen (756 – 804AD) who had invited Indian teacher Guru Padma Sambhava (Guru Rimpoche) to Tibet in order to establish proper Dharma Center or monastery and form Sangha or monastic system.  Guru Rimpoche in the other hand had done more practice and contemplation before heading to Tibet.  It was here in Nepal, he had advanced his achievements towards enlightenment and spiritual power to skillfully transform Tibet to new religion.  He had spent years meditating in various places such as Pharping, Halesi, Helambu and so forth in Nepal.  In the course of his travel to those places, it's said that, he also had meditated in one of the caves in Timal. It is believed that, he had sown a plant of Buddhichitta fruit there as a gift (Ter) to the local Tamangs.  Back in Tibet, due to the nature of Pre Buddhist religion, bon which comprised rather wrathful practices, Guru Rimpoche introduced compassionate aspect of practice in order to balance with wrathfulness.  This is where he introduced god of compassion as center deity and his practice as daily routine for the Tibetan people.  It's said that in response to King Thri Song Dechhen's series of questions related rightful and simple practice of Dharma, Guru Rimpoche instructed to have Japa Mala  containing 108 beads and recite the chanting of lord of compassion(Chenrezi). Furthermore, he had also specified the different Japa Malas having different qualities in achieving spiritual benefits.  He had said that, ordinary benefits can be gained by reciting with iron made mala whereas copper made mala would multiply twice the benefit. Similarly Japa Mala made of precious stones such as pearl would multiply the benefit hundred thousand times and benefit of reciting Boddhichita Mala is said incomparably more than any other malas. At the same occasion of giving the teaching about Mala Beads, Guru Rimpoche had said seed of such precious plant is sown by himself in Timal of Nepal.

Buddhichitta Plant and Fruit, Photo By Lapsang Lama (Timal) 

Since then, an unattractive barren reddish looking hill village of Timal some 50 miles east from Kathmandu has been visited by many Tibetans mainly to collect the holy beads.  Locals had known its use for making mala but only few knew its deeper meaning.  People who reached to collect malas in the past, could either get it free of cost or would pay only nominal.  In recent years, however, the holy bead has turned to an expensive object for both tourists and spiritual practitioners.

The ancient legend that stated its availability only in Timal turned out true as the national herborioum and plant laboratory experts KR Bhattarai and M L Pathak, confirmed  that the plant of Bodhichitta that falls in Jijifus family is not found anywhere else.  Their thorough research related to Bodhichitta plant was not limited to Nepal alone but it covered the areas of China, India, Bhutan and other parts of Asia. Their research paper published in 2015 April- June edition of Indian Journal of Plant and Science. Apparently, the plant wasn't recorded in plant encyclopedia, so as per the researchers have said, it has been recorded as 'Jijifus Buddensis KR Bhattrai and Pathak' a rightful name in honor to Buddha and the pioneer researchers. 

The number 108 in a mala is somewhat unique.  A Hindu scholar mentioned that, 108 is the total of male and female phonetic sound of 54 Sanskrit alphabets.  So the set of 108 means completeness of entire alphabets and sounds for a perfect prayer or mantra.  Buddhichitta mala is not of Hindus but the concept of mantra, sanskrit language and various spiritual aspects are shared by both religions. Thus this logic of why Japa Mala should contain 108 beads is quite convincing.  From the Tibetan Buddhist point of view, the mala is mostly associated to god Chenrejig who ichnographically appears in forms for different purposes. Even though he may have numerous different forms, most believe that he has 108 different forms.  So the mala of 108 beads could have been put to represent all different forms of god of compassion as to fulfill the complete prayer to him.

These days we can find mala of different kinds and qualities including with customized colors and sizes.  However, Buddhichitta mala has been considered special among them.  Also the reality of Buddhichitta plant being native of Timal area has added yet another phenomenon to Nepal being home of spiritual and cultural heritages.