Professional Mountain Guides Facing Problems In Lack Of Mountain Guide Certificate

Ang Phurba Sherpa, who has climbed the highest mountain in the world- Sagarmatha (Mt Everest) for 10 times, had added another feather on his hat.

Ang Phurba is one among the 10 members of Nepali climbers who first climbed the second highest mountain in the world-Mt K2-in the winter on January 16 this year. The mountain guide from the indigenous Sherpa community was spotted in the Lake City of Pokhara recently along with his Mt K2 winter expedition team members.

The Sherpa with over 14 years of climbing experience had led the team that ascended Mt K2 in winter. Despite climbing over dozen of mountains including five mountains above 8,000-metres, Ang Phurba lamented that he has not been provided with a mountain guide certificate yet in spite of achieving such rare a feat in mountaineering.

“Our profession is to climb mountains and facilitate those aspiring to climb them. We face problems when someone asks for a certificate and we are unable to produce it,” he chided.

Associated with the Himalayan Guides Nepal, Ang Phurba has helped over 15 foreign expedition teams reach atop Sagarmatha, K2 and other mountains. “In abroad, we command huge admiration and honour when we introduce ourselves as a mountaineer. But back in our country, in absence of mountain guide certificates, we face difficulties from time to time.”

He narrated how the security officials and the airport staffers at the Tribhuvan International Airport had objected when they were travelling to Pakistan for their ascent of Mt K2 last winter.

“We had been grilled and barred from travelling further. After two hours of interrogation, we managed to convince them that we were on our way to climb Mt K2,” he recalled.

They had resorted to the internet to search the news related to their previous ascents and convince the airport staffers and security personnel, he said. “Even the Pakistani immigration released us after a regular interrogation but we were detained for hours back home.”

He wished that if the Government of Nepal had considered providing mountain guide certificates to the professional mountaineers climbing mountains above 8,000 metres, things would have been much easier for the professional Sherpas like him who, he said with glint of pride, who was not only born in mountains but also born for mountains.

Reminiscing the historic Mt K2 winter ascent, the daredevil mountaineer shared, “I have succeeded to climb K2 four times but succeed twice only.” The 8,611-metre mountain which is in Pakistan is considered to be a technically difficult mountain.

A nine-member expedition team including him and American climbers had scaled the Mt K2. He was the guide in this team. The other members in this mountain guide team of Ang Phurba Sherpa were: Siddhi Bahadur Tamang, Dorje Gyalzen Sherpa, Pasa Dhawa Sherpa, Kama Dorji Sherpa, Ming Dorje Sherpa, Dawa Nupu Sherpa, Lakpa Ongchu Sherpa, Mingmar Sherpa and Company manager Bhola Poudel. He shared that they saw three or four dead bodies of mountaineers on their descent after spending around two hours on the summit.

Sherpa is associated with the Madison Himalayan Guides Nepal Company since 2009. According to him, Nepal’s beauty is hidden in the Himalayas and further publicizing this huge tourism potential in the world would significantly contribute to the growth of the national economy.

Dorje Gyalzen Sherpa from Solukhumbu who is also in Ang Phurba’s team is also a professional mountaineering guide. The 38-year-old has experience climbing the Sagarmatha (Mt Everest) 19 times. He too doesn’t have a license as a mountain guide.

Dorje Gyalzen has also called on the government to provide without any hassles the mountain guide license to those guides who have climbed Mt Everest dozens of times.

The youngest member of the team, 25-year-old Ming Dorje Sherpa scaled the world’s highest peak when he was 21 and started his professional career since then. He is now associated with the Himalayan Guides Nepal. His demand with the government is that it should bring a policy at the earliest to provide mountain guide licenses to at least those who have climbed the mountains over a dozen times.

Himalayan Guides Nepal Company manager Bhola Poudel said his company employs more than 200 mountaineers who have got recognition as ‘high altitude porter’ from the department of Tourism.

He opined that the professional mountaineers who have scaled Mt Everest dozens of times were facing injustice as the government has not provided them the mountain guide certificate. “Our demand is that the government should provide the mountain guide certificate to those who are consistently involved in mountaineering by fulfilling set criteria,” he said.

Poudel shared that the number of mountaineers has dropped to 10 per cent after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have been receiving ‘enquiries’ of many foreigners interested in mountaineering even now. But, they are discouraged by the provisions as the need to stay in quarantine after arriving Nepal and other hassles,” he said.

The authorities should ease the provisions for mountaineers and foreign visitors who have already had the double doses of vaccine and tested PCR negative.

April and May are considered suitable times to climb mountains above 8,000 metres, while September, October and November are appropriate for climbing other mountains. It costs around 35,000-90,000 US dollars for a foreign national to climb a mountain.
General-Secretary of Nepal Mountaineering Association, Kul Bahadur Gurung, shared that the NMA has been issuing ‘black book’, ‘blue book’ and ‘red book’ by dividing the work experience of climbers into three phases.

He added, “We issue blue book to those carrying out the activities of climbing supporters staying in basecamp for three years and red book after three years of issuance of the blue book.” He stated that preparation is underway for timely revision and amendment to the book.

Gurung further said that there is a provision that one, who has already taken training from NMA and crossed the first, second and third phases would be qualified for the ‘national mountain guide’ as well, as there is a provision to complete a course of International Federation of Mountain Guides Association to get membership of international mountain guide. The number of people getting the recognition of mountain guides is only 70.

He opined, “Though the government was agreed to provide license of mountain guide to the climbers, who have climbed mountains many times, having a red book and got training of high mountaineering, it was stopped due to dispute.”

The Department of Tourism under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation in 2076 BS had decided to provide mountain guide tourists to climbers at the recommendation of NMA, saying there are renowned climbers in Nepal, but the NMA suggested that the mountain guide license could be provided only to those having the red book as well as to those who are continuously in the climbing profession after taking high mountaineering training.

This matter has now reached the court after those who have received mountain tourists guide certificates from IFMGA expressed their disagreement on it and the matter is now under consideration.

According to NMA, it has been imparting 44-day basic mountaineering training in Manang and advanced course in Langtang.

There are 675 people who have got basic training while 785 people who have taken advanced training, NMA said. Out of 14 mountains above 8,000 meters across the world, eight are in Nepal.

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