News / USA

New York Sherpas Grieve for Everest Victims

Dawa Tashi Sherpa in the Intensive Care Unit of Grandi International Hospital, Dhapasi, Kathmandu, April 18, 2014.
Dawa Tashi Sherpa in the Intensive Care Unit of Grandi International Hospital, Dhapasi, Kathmandu, April 18, 2014.
Adam Phillips
— New York is home to the largest number of Sherpas anywhere outside Nepal, and that community has been plunged into mourning for 16 mountain guides killed by an avalanche on Mount Everest.

The Sherpas had been moving across an icefield, preparing a route for a group of Western climbers who were to ascend the world's tallest peak in the days and weeks to come.
Ang Geljen Sherpa, president of the United Sherpa Association (USA), says education and opportunity can provide a surer and a safer path for Sherpa livelihood than guiding Westerners up Mount Everest. (Adam Phillips/VOA)Ang Geljen Sherpa, president of the United Sherpa Association (USA), says education and opportunity can provide a surer and a safer path for Sherpa livelihood than guiding Westerners up Mount Everest. (Adam Phillips/VOA)
x
Ang Geljen Sherpa, president of the United Sherpa Association (USA), says education and opportunity can provide a surer and a safer path for Sherpa livelihood than guiding Westerners up Mount Everest. (Adam Phillips/VOA)
Ang Geljen Sherpa, president of the United Sherpa Association (USA), says education and opportunity can provide a surer and a safer path for Sherpa livelihood than guiding Westerners up Mount Everest. (Adam Phillips/VOA)
Late Friday afternoon, many of the estimated 3,500 Sherpa residents of Elmhurst, Queens, were still at work. In the colorful Buddhist temple at the United Sherpa Association headquarters, a monk was busy washing ritual brass lamps to prepare for a community-wide memorial service on Sunday.

“New York is like a busy life,” said Ang Geljen Sherpa, the Nepalese-American who leads the organization. “Yet we keep in touch with our community back home.

"We are all connected through emails or phone, so people [here] knew these people" who died on Everest, he said. "Most of them were brought up around the Everest region. So definitely, the feeling is sorrow.”

A proud and dangerous job

An estimated 16 people died in the April 18 avalanche; thirteen bodies were recovered, but another three remain missing, likely entombed somewhere in Everest's permanent ice and snow cover.

Ang Geljen Sherpa is proud of his people’s tradition of safely guiding intrepid mountain climbers, usually Westerners. Everest is usually scaled in stages of increasing treachery, leading to the summit nearly 9,000 meters above sea level. Sherpas work as the foreign climbers' guides and assistants, also carrying supplies up the mountain.

“The Sherpa climbers, they know these risks and they are willing to take these risks because they have to put food on the table,” he said. “Of course, the safety concern is very important. But you can’t do [anything] about the avalanches.” 

A sister’s warning unheeded

In Nepal, one can find safer jobs, but they tend to far less lucrative than guiding groups up the mountain. Pasang Kanchee Sherpa advised her brother to stay safe, but he died in the accident, some 22 years after another brother met the same fate.

“Every week I talked to him on the phone and said, '[Do] not go on the mountain!’ I was so worried about him, but ... he won’t listen to me," she told VOA. "Now I have no brother. 

"I am very heartbroken," she said. "My brother, he was so kind, careful and always a happy person. I loved my brother. I miss him.”

Ngawang Dhondup, a Buddhist monk, saw Pasang Kanchee Sherpa weeping constantly during an earlier funeral ceremony — a traditional rite, eight hours long — for her brother. The monk said it was an emotional moment, but he also had a spiritual explanation.

“It’s really sad it happened there [on Everest]," he said. "People have to die because of their karma. According to Buddhism, when people die they are born again ... in a good place. And we just have to pray for them.”

Karma, desperation and opportunity

United Sherpa Association President Ang Geljen Sherpa says it was not only karma that brought death to those Sherpas on the mountain. It was economic necessity, and the lack of other options for them.

“That’s why we are in America," the Sherpa community leader said. "We have to tell our kids ... to focus on education. So we have to break this cycle of climbing.” 

He said he hopes his people will learn to strike a balance between the proud traditions of the past and present-day safety concerns on the world’s highest peak, where the number of adventure-seeking Western tourists grows every year.

Meanwhile, Sherpas everywhere continue to grieve.

You May Like

Video On The Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime bombardment, VOA correspondent finds More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid