Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 25th, 2011
Nawang Gombu Sherpa, 79, died on Sunday, April 24, 2011. A Sherpa mountaineer who was the youngest on Sir Edmund Hillary’s climbing team that first scaled Mount Everest in 1953 has died at his Indian home at the foot of the Himalayas. He was married and living in Darjeeling, India, at the time of his death. He was born in 1936 in Minzu, Tibet. He was the business director of the Himalayan Mountain Institute established by Tenzing Norgay Sherpa. Few people know he was the son of Tenzing Norgay’s oldest sister, Lhamu Kipa. Therefore, Tenzing Norgay Sherpa was his Uncle.
Nawang Gombu with Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
A very brief overview of his expeditions summits of Everest are below.
1963: American Expedition with Norman Dyhrenfurth [formerly of the Slick-Johnson Snowman Expedition of 1958] as leader and including A. Auten, Barry Bishop, Jake Breitenbach, J. Corbet, D. Dingman, D. Doody, R. Emerson, Tom Hornbein, Lute Jerstad, J. Lester, Willi Unsoeld, and Jim Whittaker. A huge expedition, costing almost $400,000 and supported by the National Geographic Society, over 900 porters carry 29 tons of food and equipment to the base of the mountain. Base Camp was established at the foot of the Khumbu Icefall on Mar 21 and the route through the icefall prepared soon after. Jake Breitenbach was killed by collapsing seracs in the Icefall but the expedition continued. The expedition split into two parties – the West Ridgers and the South Collers.
First Assault: May 1 From Camp 6 at 27,450 feet (8370 meters) on the SE Ridge, Jim Whittaker and Nawang Gombu Sherpa reach the summit in strong winds at 1 PM. Whittaker became the first American to summit Everest. Whittaker’s memoirs noted that “Gombu’s people believe that if you see a yeti you will die in two days.”
1965: Third Indian Expedition, with Commander M.S Kohli as leader. On May 20, 1965 they succeed when A.S. Cheema and Sherpa Nawang Gombu ascend the SE Ridge. Gombu became the first person to summit Everest twice (the 11th and 17th summit). Out of the first seventeen summits of Everest, Nawang had two of them. Additional summits were achieved by Sonam Gyatso Sherpa, Sonam Wangyal, C.P. Vohra, Ang Kami Sherpa, H.P.S. Ahluwalia, H.C.S. Rawat, and Phu Dorje Sherpa.
Nawang Gombu Sherpa started his Everest career in 1960 as part of the India Expedition to Everest lead by Gyan Singh. Nawang Gombu reached a high point of 8625 meters on May 25th before turning back due to high winds.
Nawang Gombu Sherpa was also part of the 1982 American expedition that attempted Great Couloir of Everest lead by Lou Whittaker. The expedition was terminated when Marty Hoey died.