Over the years a large number of Sherpas have been instrumental helping others to achieve successful ascents of the mighty Mount Everest. One such person is Nawang Gombu, a Sherpa mountaineer born in 1936 in the beautiful village of Minzu, Tibet.
As a young boy Nawang began his studies at the Rongbuk monastery, founded in 1902, which lies at an astounding 17,000 feet above sea level. This makes it the highest monastery in the world. Today it can be accessed with relative ease via a rough and tedious road; however in the days of the great mountaineers such as Mallory and Irvine it would take up to five weeks from Darjeeling to finally reach this spot. It is through Rongbuk that one must pass if you are seeking to reach the highest peak along the treacherous North face route. It is from here that one gains a spectacular view of some of the most beautiful and highest mountains in the world such as: Cho Oyu, Shishipangma and - the grandest of them all - Mount Everest. Interestingly it was from here that Nawang ran away to become one of the most memorable Sherpas in history.
You may wonder what influenced him in the direction of becoming a Sherpa. Was it just by accident? Was it out of necessity? Interestingly, Nawang Gombu is the nephew of the legendary Tenzing Norgay - a fact that not many people are aware of. It was this great influence that drew Nawang to the mountains. He later succeeded in summiting Mount Everest twice. The first successful attempt was in 1963 on an American expedition headed by Norman Dyhrenfurth. It was one of the largest groups of climbers and was supported by National Geographic, costing the company almost $400,000. On March the 21st, a base camp was established at the bottom of the Khumbu Icefall. Unfortunately Jake Breitenbach was later fatally wounded by collapsing seracs. Despite this the expedition continued and two separate parties were formed: the West Ridgers and the South Collers. It was on the first ascent along the South East Ridge on May 1st that Jim Whittaker and Nawang Gombu reached the summit of Everest at around one O’clock.
Then in 1965 Nawang joined the Indian tour led by Commander M.S Kohli. It was again along the South East Ridge that mountaineer A.S Cheema and Sherpa Nawang Gombu would ascend, reaching Everest’s Summit on May 20th. History was made as Nawang became the first person to ever reach Everest’s highest peak twice in the first seventeen summits ever made at that point.
In 1954 Tenzing Norgay founded the prominent ‘Himalayan Mountaineering Institute’ where some years later Nawang Gombu became an instructor. Eventually, after Tenzing Norgay’s retirement, Nawang became Field Director and today he is still fully involved as Business Director of the Institute.