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Utahn Apa Sherpa tops Everest for the 19th time

Published May 21, 2009 10:03 am

Climbing » Utah resident places sacred vase on summit to empower people to deal with climate change.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

With the weight of a 2-pound vase meant to spiritually empower the people of the world to deal with climate change, Apa Sherpa made it the to top of Mount Everest late Wednesday for a historic 19th time.

"I am at the top and am looking at all the prayer flags. I have just satisfied the deities and placed the Bhumpa on the summit," Apa, told the Eco Everest base-camp manager about 8 p.m.

The 49-year-old Apa, a Salt Lake City resident since 2006, has climbed to the top of the world more than anyone else. The 5-foot-4, 120-pound Sherpa from the village of Thame has made it to the summit of Everest 19 of the past 20 years and completed the amazing task for eight straight years. The next closest total was 16 going into this spring's climbing season.

As part of the expedition he completed Wednesday, he was asked to carry the sacred vase, known as a Bhumpa, to the top of Mount Everest by the Rinpoche of Tengboche, Ngawang Tenzin Zangpo, a high-ranking Buddhist monk. The Bhumpa is loaded with 400 ingredients, including holy relics, medicinal plants and spiritual elements. Apa placed the vase on the top of the world and headed back down the 29,035-foot peak.

"With the Bhumpa at the top of Mount Everest, Mother Goddess of the World, we will once again enhance her protective powers over mankind. The same powers that were diminished by man's selfish and greedy actions," said Dawa Steven Sherpa, who organized the Eco Everest Expedition and asked Apa to become a member for the past two climbing seasons.

Apa also unfurled a banner at the top of Everest that read "Stop Climate Change, Let the Himalayas Live!"

Apa was not the only Utahn known to have reached Everest's summit this week.

John Collinson, a 17-year-old who lives at Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon, made it to the top of the world Monday night. He was guided by Willie Benegas, who has worked at Snowbird and has lived in the Salt Lake valley with his brother Damian. The Benegas brothers were working for Mountain Madness.

This was the second of the Seven Summits -- the highest points on the seven continents -- Collinson hopes to climb. He made it to the top of Aconcagua, South America's highest point, in January, also guided by Benegas.

The first to reach the Seven Summits was Dick Bass, owner of Snowbird, in 1985.

Collinson's goal, according to his Web site -- johnnycollinson.com -- is to be the youngest to complete the Seven Summits.

Dale Wagner, an assistant professor in Utah State University's Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, made it to the top of Everest with the SummitClimb Team also Monday night. Wagner's research interests include body composition assessment and exercise physiology at high altitude. He has been at USU since 2004.

While Apa was making his historic climb, there was also good news here in Salt Lake City.

Jerry Mika, Apa's SuperSherpas partner, attended a luncheon Wednesday and was handed a $700 check from teachers of Granite School District to pay for teachers in Apa's home village of Thame.

SuperSherpas has raised more than $30,000 to help educate the children of Nepal. While Apa brought his family to the United States to give them a better education, he is still investing his time and raising money to create a better educational system in Nepal and, specifically, the Himalayan Highlands.

"It is easy to see why he wants to do more for education in Nepal. To be there and see those kids and how grateful and excited they are to have little things like books, paper and a pencil is humbling," said Mika, who served as base camp manager during the 2007 SuperSherpas Expedition and now shares his Draper home with Apa's family. "The average annual income for the Nepalis is $250. The $30,000 that Apa has returned to his country will go a long, long way and that is more than Apa earned working here in Utah in the past year."

Apa never talks about the possibility of another climb until the one before him is completed. Now that 19 is out of the way, he can start thinking about pushing his record to 20. He has also been invited to climb a yet to be topped peak in the Himalayas with a Swiss documentary team this fall. The documentary, like the one filmed but not yet released of the 2007 expedition, will, according to director Stephane Schaffter, "not only restore the Sherpas to their rightful place in history, but also combine the climbing talents of West and East without one dominating the other".

Apa will return to Salt Lake on May 29, just in time to attend Utah's Best of State ceremony on May 30, where he will be honored in the Sports Athlete Category.

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Journey to the top

Apa Sherpa's successful summits of Mount Everest

1. May 10, 1990

2. May 8, 1991

3. May 12, 1992

4. Oct. 7, 1992

5. May 10, 1993

6. Oct. 10, 1994

7. May 15, 1995

8. April 26, 1997

9. May 20, 1998

10. May 26, 1999

11. May 24, 2000

12. May 16, 2002

13. May 26, 2003

14. May 17, 2004

15. May 31, 2005

16. May 19, 2006

17. May 16, 2007

18. May 22, 2008

19. May 21, 2009 (Nepal, May 20 in Utah)

Source » Apa Sherpa

Journey to the top

Apa Sherpa's successful summits of Mount Everest:

1. May 10, 1990

2. May 8, 1991

3. May 12, 1992

4. Oct. 7, 1992

5. May 10, 1993

6. Oct. 10, 1994

7. May 15, 1995

8. April 26, 1997

9. May 20, 1998

10. May 26, 1999

11. May 24, 2000

12. May 16, 2002

13. May 26, 2003

14. May 17, 2004

15. May 31, 2005

16. May 19, 2006

17. May 16, 2007

18. May 22, 2008

19. May 21, 2009 (Nepal, May 20 in Utah)

Source » Apa Sherpa