SuperSherpas return, having topped Everest - and raised awareness for their people
Posted: 12:51 PM- Apa Sherpa scanned the crowd at Salt Lake International Airport and quickly noticed that his two sons were not there to greet their father.
He promptly excused his boys from missing the successful homecoming of the SuperSherpas expedition to Mount Everest after hearing they were in school.
Education is, after all, the reason Apa and Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa climbed Everest in the first place.
Family, friends and media gathered today at the airport to welcome the men home from a trip to Everest that proved successful in many different ways.
Apa and Lhakpa made it to the top of the world - 29,035 above sea level - on May 16 with six other members of their all-Sherpa team. The main goals of the expedition were to raise awareness of the role Sherpa people have played in getting foreigners up Everest and trying to stress the importance of education for the children of Nepal.
A documentary and a book are being produced of the historic summit in an effort to continue the mission of the SuperSherpas for years to come.
"The most important accomplishment is promoting the education of our children. We hope to raise a lot of money to help the children so they can make choices other than climbing," said Apa, who broke his own world record with 17 trips to the top and made it for an incredible 15th consecutive time.
Apa and Lhakpa are proud of how well their team performed and they are happy with the world-wide coverage of their expedition. They hope to continue to spread the word with speeches and appearances.
There were also some personal benefits.
Lhakpa brought his three children, Ang Dawa (16), Tashi (12) and Nima (10), to the United States for the first time. It was an emotional moment as the children, who have been attending boarding schools in Kathmandu, were reunited with their mother, Fuli.
"I feel like we have accomplished so many goals, but it is most important that the children are here now with their mother," said Lhakpa, who set a world record for the fastest summit from base camp to the summit of Everest in just under 11 hours in 2003. "Education is so important and now they can go to schools here and be with us."
Fuli immediately noticed that Tashi was suffering from more than jet lag upon her arrival.
"She is sick," Fuli said while placing her hand on Tashi's forehead. "I am very thankful. My husband has come home safely from Everest and my children are now with me."
Apa and his wife, Yangjin, moved with their three children to Utah in December 2006. It had been a dream of their oldest son Tenzing to attend a university in the United States. He is now a business student at the University of Utah.
Apa had connections in Utah with Jerry Mika and the two opened Karma, an outdoor clothing and equipment store in East Millcreek, to provide an income for the Sherpa family.
Lhakpa, and Fuli also moved to Utah in December.
Apa, Lhakpa, Mika and Roger Kehr formed SuperSherpas LLC in January of 2007 and soon planned an expedition.
Apa and Lhakpa left on March 28 to prepare for the summit bid, while Mika and Kehr, who would serve as base camp managers, left in mid-April.
The trek to base camp took its toll on the Westerners trying to keep up with the Sherpas. Kehr had to return to Salt Lake with health issues. The team presented Kehr with an oxygen bottle used on the summit and signed by every other member of the expedition at the airport Tuesday.
Lance and Rulon Bunker, two Utahns who served as support trekkers on the expedition, say their trip to and their time in base camp was lifechanging.
"I cried when they came back to base camp [after summiting]," Lance Bunker said. "All you saw were burnt faces and huge smiles. You knew they were miserable and you knew how hard it had been, but all they could do was smile. It was such a wonderful event made all the better because they weren't climbing for themselves or for fame, but for all their people."
To relive every step of the the SuperSherpas Expedition visit sherpas.sltrib.com for videos, pictures and blogs from base camp.