Gelje Sherpa, a professional mountaineer and guide from Nepal, accomplished a remarkable rescue operation on May 18th by saving a Malaysian climber on Mount Everest. According to a government official, this “very rare” rescue mission took place at an extremely high altitude where oxygen levels are very low. The area is commonly called the “Death Zone” due to its treacherous conditions and the significant number of fatalities that occur there.
On May 18th, while leading a Chinese climber toward the summit of Mount Everest (8,849 meters or 29,032 feet), Gelje Sherpa made a significant discovery — a stranded Malaysian climber on the verge of succumbing to freezing temperatures. In order to save the climber’s life, Gelje persuaded his Chinese client to end his summit and descend to the Everest Base Camp, allowing him to focus on saving the stranded Malaysian climber’s life.
Twitter user Joe Pompliano said:
Meet Gelje Sherpa.
He was taking a private client up Mt. Everest when he noticed someone dying just 500 meters from the summit.
So he ran over, wrapped him in a sleeping mattress, gave him oxygen, put him on his back, and hiked him 6 hours down the mountain to safety.
— Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) June 5, 2023
In an interview with Guardian News, Gelje mentioned that it was more important to save a life than going for the summit. He carried the stranded climber on his back from 1,900 feet at an extreme altitude; the rescue took about six hours. Gelje wrote in his Instagram account about the rescue: “I carried him myself all the way down to Camp 4 where a rescue team helped from then on.”
Twitter user Naser tweeted:
This is Gelje Sherpa, a hero who risked his own life to rescue an ungrateful mountaineer who almost died while trying to summit Mount Everest by carrying him for six hours.
Sherpas are unsung heroes & deserve way more recognition than they get. pic.twitter.com/SWttmeEXQe
— Naser (@NaserMestarihi) June 5, 2023
A strange omission
Gelje Sherpa’s heroic act received applause and accolades from across the globe, with numerous international news channels highlighting his brave act. However, there appears to be one individual who is not very happy about the rescue: the Malaysian climber himself, Ravichandran Tharumalingam. In an Instagram post, Tharumalingam took the opportunity to express gratitude toward his sponsors, failing to mention Gelje Sherpa. Soon after this post, social media users started slamming Tharumalingam for neglecting to acknowledge Gelje’s role in saving his life. As the situation escalated, Tharumalingam posted another message expressing gratitude toward the Sherpas who played a part in his rescue, including Gelje Sherpa.
The role of Sherpas on Everest
Nepal is home to Mount Everest, which is considered the world’s highest peak. Eight of the top ten highest mountain peaks in the world are located in Nepal, making it a popular destination for mountaineers.
The climbing of Mount Everest, revered as the ultimate test for mountaineers, is never complete without a remarkable group of professionals in Nepal known as Sherpas. Often mistaken as mere porters, the Sherpas come from an ethnic community deeply rooted in Nepal’s culture and history. Their community has lived in mountainous regions for generations and has mastered the ability to survive in this challenging atmosphere on a daily basis.
Leveraging their expertise, Sherpas play pivotal roles in each Everest expedition. They assist in establishing camps, cook for the expedition teams, carry oxygen supplies to the camps, and provide guidance and support throughout the arduous journey to the Everest summit. They are the backbone of any expedition and they are some of the world’s best athletes. Not only do they guide the climbers to the summit, but they often take heroic risks to save other climbers.
Regrettably, the Sherpas remain largely unknown to the world, often overshadowed and incorrectly perceived as mere porters. Reports indicate that porters receive a meager average daily wage of five US dollars, while seasoned guides can earn around four to five thousand US dollars for their services during climbs. These porters shoulder an immense burden, carrying over thirty kilograms of weight per person to the base camp. However, their incomes are barely enough to meet their families’ basic needs.
While Sherpas may have contributed to making Everest summits appear easier, the reality is far from it. There are many record-breaking Sherpa mountaineers who have taken the Himalayan Expedition to the international level and given more recognition. Nepal, despite its potential to lead the global mountaineering arena, faces challenges due to the lack of robust government support and adequate human resources.