OT: Tell us something about yourself.
Sonam Tenzing Sherpa:
I’m from the village of Chumoa in
the Khumbu region of Nepal. Although I grew up in the shadow of the great mountains, I was actually born in India, in Dehradun. My father was among the Dalai Lama’s bodyguards and my mother worked in a local factory. Some of my father’s cousins are still there. We came back to Nepal soon after I was born, and I went to primary school in my village. I was lucky to be chosen for secondary school in Khumjung above Namche. It’s run by Edmund Hillary’s Himalayan Trust. After that I worked with a travel agency in Kathmandu for five years.

OT: How did you get into guiding?
Sonam Tenzing Sherpa:
Well, it is quite a lucrative profession here. But I had never thought that I’d become a guide. When I was working in Kathmandu, my mother insisted that I return to the village and get married. So I did. Then, four years ago, I applied for a forty-five-day, guide-training course in Kathmandu. It is a popular course and every year some three hundred people apply. Luckily, I was part of the 150 they selected. I have been guiding ever since then.

OT: What are your duties when you’re guiding?
Sonam Tenzing Sherpa:
Well, I am an assistant guide, and last year I went for fifteen treks. You see, every expedition has a leader. Then there is the main guide, called a sirdar — he does everything from overseeing the parties and making bookings. All the logistical work. The assistant guide is next — he does important little things like taking care of a tiring client, or trudging ahead with the fitter members of a group. Sometimes I go a day or so ahead to the lodges to prepare them for the main party.

OT: What is guiding in Khumbu like?
Sonam Tenzing Sherpa:
As you know, it’s a very popular region, with most people coming here to trek to the Everest base camp. But there are many other great treks that you can do around here, though things are more expensive now due to the rising prices of kerosene. Since there are no roads, fuel has to be flown in from Kathmandu to Lukla; that adds to the costs. But now there are more lodges, and that is driving the prices down. There are lodges even at Gorakshep near the Everest base camp. I remember one year there was a record number of visitors. There was so little space that people were sleeping everywhere, even in the hot-shower stall!

OT: Would you ever climb Everest?
Sonam Tenzing Sherpa:
No, I definitely don’t want to climb Everest. After all, I have a wife and a child. I don’t want to put myself at risk, unless I absolutely must.

OT: What are you looking forward to?
Sonam Tenzing Sherpa:
I would love to become a senior guide. I need to learn more languages. And I want to re-visit India. I was there a few years ago with a conservation group. We went to Darjeeling and Sikkim. I loved Gangtok, and Changu lake. But there were so many tourists, and hotels were so expensive! I’d like to take my wife there someday, for a holiday.

Sonam Tenzing Sherpa, Assistant Guide, Thamserku Trekking, Gairidhara, Kathmandu +977–9803239745, sonam_20tenjing AT yahoo.com

Leave a Reply