Pune: Mountaineers here mourned the death of Nepalese climber and Himalayan rescuer Wongchu Sherpa who had scaled the world’s highest mountain Mt. Everest twice. He was 52. He died in Kathmandu on Wednesday after a two-year-long battle with cancer.
“We are saddened by his demise… He was an ‘extreme mountaineer’ and had twice summitted the world’s highest mountain Mt. Everest, scaled other 8,000-metre-plus peaks like Mt. Dhaulagiri, Mt. Annapurna, Mt. Makalu, Mt. Shishapangma and Mt. Cho-Oyu, besides helping conserve the Himalayan environment,” Umesh Zirpe, an official of the Pune-based Giripremi mountaineering institute, told IANS.
Wongchu, who is survived by his wife and two daughters, was on Friday accorded a funeral with full state honours in Kathmandu with Nepal Prime Minister K.P.S. Oli and other top dignitaries present on the occasion.
He was born in a remote Himalayan village, Tapting Chyangba in Solumhumbu district of eastern Nepal, and had lost his parents at a tender age.
In his teens, he became interested in climbing and became a professional climber, helper and rescuer for various expeditions to Mt. Everest and other high peaks in the Himalayas.
Zirpe said the credit for taking a heavy camera to the roof of the world goes to Wongchu and enable shooting IMAX films from there.
“He was engaged in search and rescue operations of the victims in the 1996 tragedy on Mt. Everest and created a record ot staying for 18 days in above-7,000 metres altitude during that time, led the Everest Cleaning Expedition, and assisted BBC and National Geographic shooting expeditions to the world’s highest peak,” Zirpe added.
Besides, he had a burning desire to protect the Himalayan and surrounding environment, which led to his hosting the Nepal government’s cabinet meeting at the Mt. Everest Base Camp to highlight the ill-effects of pollution and global warming on the Himalayas and its high altitude peaks.
Several recommendations in this regard, including liability to bring back all garbage during Everest expeditions by the teams, were accepted by the Nepal government.
Wongchu also contributed to his community with social, academic and community projects and was president of Everest Summitteers Association and a leading Sherpa agency, Peak Promotion.
After the disastrous Nepal earthquake in 2015, he had shifted to Pune and was treated for five months for cancer at Punarvasu Ayurvedik Clinic and Dinanath Mangeshkar Hospital.
“His situation deteriorated beyond salvage and as per his wishes, he was shifted back to Kathmandu on September 15. He was on life-support systems but passed away peacefully on December 30,” Zirpe said.