Mingma David Sherpa: Six times on top of the world

Of late, Mingma David Sherpa has become a household name. The co-owner and Head of Operations and Logistics at Elite Himalayan Adventure, Sherpa has become quite a prominent personality across global media outlets. A core team member of the team that put Nirmal Purja on top of 14 peaks, Sherpa himself has a few feats to his name – the ‘youngest person to scale all 14 8,000-meter and above peaks’ to name one of a few.

We had an opportunity to catch up with the acclaimed mountaineer over coffee, and are glad to share his fascinating journey from a small village in Taplejung to the top of the world (literally, and for six times).

Born in 1989, Mingma David Sherpa spent his early years along the shadows of the majestic Mt Kanchanjunga. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that he embarked upon his first official trek – to Annapurna Base Camp wherein ‘his mountaineering/climbing spirit was stirred’, he shares. As the then political scenario was tumultuous, Sherpa says his schooling was affected due to prolonged strikes. Shortly, he stumbled upon an opportunity to head to the Annapurna Region as a porter. “It was during the same journey that my interest in mountaineering/climbing sprouted,” he says.

From 2007 to 2019 – his voyage from being a porter to a world record holder is nothing short of incredible. After serving as a porter for three years, he went on to become a trekking guide in 2008. While doing intermittent treks, he had joined a climbing expedition to Mt Manaslu as a ‘kitchen helper’ in 2009. However, he could reach only as high as 4,800 metres. So while returning, he made a vow to himself that he’d make it to the top one day.

He then reached out to his maternal uncle, who at that time had been atop Mt Everest three times, for advice. Upon his uncle’s recommendation, Shepra joined a training program on mountain climbing. His training was shorty followed by his first ascent atop of Mt Everest – now his first of many. He thanks his maternal uncle for the opportunity and explains that the latter is no more with us. Sherpa’s maternal uncle Dorje Khatri passed away in the catastrophic 2014 Everest avalanche.

Meanwhile, Sherpa continued his mountaineering career – pursuing advanced courses on mountaineering, working as an expedition leader, assisting rescue operations and saving several lives. Sherpa also shares his persistence to complete his SLC (now SEE) examinations. He says his attempt to complete his grade 10 studies was interrupted halfway after he had to head to China for an expedition. Nevertheless, he completed it the next year.

Today, Mingma David Sherpa is the youngest climber to have climbed all 14 8,000-meter and above peaks and he is the fastest person to scale the world’s top two highest mountains (Mt Everest and Mt K2 in 61 days). He has scaled Mt Everest a whopping six times, Mt K2 twice, and has been atop 8,000 meters as many as 23 times. When probed if that is a record too, he smiles and says it is not. “May be if I reach the top a few more times,” he adds with a laugh.

Speaking of his association with Nirmal Purja, also known as Nims Dai among his Nepali fans, Sherpa shares a memory of Purja and his maternal uncle – in 2012 when Purja was en route to Everest Base Camp, he had asked Sherpa’s uncle (who was also his guide) if he could climb Mt Everest. Although, Nims Dai could not climb Everest then, Sherpa’s uncle later made arrangements for him to climb Lobuche Peak (6119m).

In 2016, when Sherpa was at the Everest Base Camp, he received a call from Purja saying he was interested in climbing Mt Everest – the expedition was successful and hence the start of a long and outstanding partnership.

As both sustained their mountaineering passion, Sherpa speaks of an incident in 2016 when he had planned to summit both Mt Everest and Mt Lhotse in a single day. However, when he reached Camp IV for the same, he learned of an accident that demanded an immediate rescue operation. Abandoning his plans to set a record, Sherpa became a part of the rescue team and saved a mountaineer from 8,600 metres – one of the most difficult rescue operations on Mt Everest. Sherpa has been a part of more than 80 rescue operations throughout his mountaineering career.

In 2019, as a part of the Project Possible team, Sherpa climbed nine peaks alongside Purja – Mt Annapurna, Mt Dhaulagiri, Mt Nanga Parbat, Mt Gasherbrum I, Mt Gasherbrum II, Broad Peak, Mt Manaslu, Mt Kanchenjunga and Mt Shishapangma.

Giving continuity to his relentless passion for mountaineering, Sherpa is scheduled to head to Argentina for an expedition in January, 2020 and will back in Nepal for the 2020 climbing season.

When asked what his vision is, Mingma David Sherpa says he wishes to make the rescue system in Nepal more systematic. He also believes that patrons approaching his expedition company are reaching out to him with a dream and he wishes to fulfill their dream with sincerity.

Lastly, we asked him how it feels like to be atop Mt Everest and he replied with a humble answer, “When I am atop Mt Everest, or any other peak for that matter, I can see the route I have taken, I see other surrounding peaks, many of which I have been on, and it gives me as well as my surrounding a certain sense of existence, one which fills my heart with warmth.”

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