KATHMANDU: He conquered Mt Everest an incredible 21 times, making India's youngest Everest hero Arjun Vajpai say in admiration that Apa Sherpa could climb the world's highest peak blind-folded. But now, the Everest legend will hang up his climbing boots and grapple with pen and paper to write his memoirs instead of risking the dreaded Khumbu cough next year.
"This is my last Everest expedition," said 51-year-old 'super Sherpa' Apa Sherpa, who broke his own record this month by striding up to the 8848m peak for the 21st time on May 11 as part of the Eco Everest Expedition 2011 to exhort the world to prevent climate change. "I risked my life for my country. But now I am getting old and I leave my best wishes for the younger climbers."
Apa said he would have no regrets if a younger climber broke his record one day. Among the things he would try his hand at now would include trying to write a book to raise funds for the Apa Sherpa Foundation, the NGO he registered last year to share his good fortune with his village Thame, nestled among the Himalayan foothills. Also, the shy man who found it easier to scale mt Everest than give a public speech is now becoming a motivational speaker in the US, also to raise funds.
"The education system is poor in Nepal," he said. "I moved to the US so that my children could have a better education. My only regret is that the government never did anything for us. In other countries, when people return home after climbing Mt Everest, their governments give them promotions and other facilities. But in Nepal the government remained oblivious to us."
Apa, who began his illustrious career as a young porter for foreign trekkers, first summited Mt Everest in 1990 as part of an expedition that also included wellknown New Zealand mountain guide Rob Hall, who died in the Everest snow storm tragedy in 1996, and Peter Hillary, son of Sir Edmund Hillary.
He was ready to retire after his 17th ascent in 2007 but was persuaded by the Eco Everest Expedition to return to the mountain to create awareness about the perils of global warming, especially in the Himalayas, and to clean the mountain of the garbage left behind by climbers. With this expedition, the Eco Everest Expeditions have brought down nearly 14,000 kg of garbage, including the wreck of a helicopter. Asked if he had been invited to the White House by American President Barack Obama, he said his work in Nepal was more important.