“A 30,000-Foot View of Leadership”
While serving international adventure tourists in what often appears to be a support role, the Sherpa guides of Nepal are unparalleled models of true leadership. Perhaps the most exceptional and renowned among them is Apa Sherpa, who holds 13 world records for summiting Mount Everest 21 times, four of those without supplemental oxygen.
In his captivating keynote address, Apa shares a perspective on leadership gained from his 25 years of leading expeditions and his 21 ascents of the world’s highest peak. Using images and anecdotes from his many climbs, Apa is able to breathe new life into the concepts surrounding leadership — on being mission-focused, on risk-taking and decision-making, on logistics and teamwork, on sacrifice and setbacks, and, of course, on victory.
With his delightful manner and his gripping stories, Apa Sherpa wows his audiences as he leaves them with new insights and food for thought on the topic of leadership.
Ironically, summiting Everest was never a goal for Apa. At 12 years of age, he first began working as an expedition porter to earn money following the untimely death of his father. Leaders and trekkers alike immediately noticed the child who, despite his exceedingly small stature, carried loads greater than his own weight with strength, quickness and a wide smile.
Coming from Thame, the hometown of Everest legend Tenzing Norgay, it was almost inevitable that Apa would become a high-altitude Sherpa on Everest. He began carrying loads on Everest in 1988, but it wasn’t until May 10, 1990, that he reached the summit for the first time along with Rob Hall, Gary Ball, and Peter Hillary, son of the first Western climber to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
Adhering to a simple philosophy that “Everest will always be there” and it is more important to keep all team members and Sherpas safe, Apa has led his teams to amazing success.
The only year Apa did not participate in Everest expedition was in 1996. Apa was asked to climb with Rob Hall several times as he had climbed with Rob three times in prior years. Apa stayed home to help his wife, Yangjin to build their new house in Thame. Apa was very saddened to learn that many of his close climbers lost their lives including Rob himself during the expedition. That year, fifteen people died trying to reach the summit, making it the deadliest year in Mount Everest’s history.
After officially retiring from climbing in 2011, Apa set another record by covering a distance of 1,700 kilometers on foot with a mission to raise awareness against climate change in the Himalayas in 2012 (The Great Himalayan Trail). Apa and his team completed 20 Himalayan districts from East to West of Nepal in 99 days.
If Apa could have planned his life, differently, however, he says he would gladly have given up the world records for a good education and a career as a medical doctor. That is why education for his own children and for the other children of Thame is his top priority.
It is this desire for his children’s education that has brought Apa to the United States. While the decision to leave his homeland was a difficult one, Apa knows that his new home will bring him continued opportunities to pass on all that he has learned from climbing.
In addition to his mountaineering accomplishments, Apa is active in climate change education and the conservation of Mount Everest through many Eco-Everest clean-up expeditions. Eco-Everest has removed roughly 14,000 kg of garbage from the mountain.
A Climate-for-Life ambassador, Apa Sherpa was the recipient of World Wildlife Foundation’s prestigious “Leaders for a Living Planet” award, and he has established a foundation to assist with education projects and schools in the Khumbu Valley. In 2013, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Utah for his commitment to cultural and ecological conservation of the Himalayas.
A Chance for a Better Life
“Without an education, we have no choice.” – Apa Sherpa
In 2010, Apa formed the Apa Sherpa Foundation, whose mission is to empower individuals throughout the world to follow his example in overcoming adversity.
Apa Sherpa, Tiger of the Himalaya, was born in poverty and rose to become the greatest climber in the history of Mount Everest. Apa struggled greatly to obtain a modest education in his youth. In his pursuit of education, he worked diligently to provide for his family amidst difficult economic circumstances and today endeavors to provide the opportunities he never had to the next generation.
The Apa Sherpa Foundation seeks to build on Apa’s legacy by laying the foundations of strength, starting with where they live in Apa’s home village in Thame, Nepal, and then to the rest of the world.
With education and experience, individuals go on to lead strong families, communities and ultimately, nations. The Apa Sherpa Foundation embraces all methods, projects and groups working toward this goal.