This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Apa Sherpa's feats have made him the Michael Jordan of mountaineering, the Lance Armstrong of Mount Everest trekkers.

And, now the new Draper resident plans to better his own record for reaching the peak of Mount Everest.

He is planning to visit the top of the world a 17th time.

The trip will be even more historic because he will be part of an all-sherpa expedition, the first. Also confirmed for the trip is Lhakpa Gelu, newly transplanted from Nepal to Sandy, who has summited the mountain faster than anyone else, 10 hours and 56 minutes from base camp.

"The only-sherpa team," says Apa, smiling. "We're going to make sherpa history."

Arguably one of the world's most famous athletes, Apa relocated his family to Utah last month.

A man to whom climbing the world's tallest mountain is more a job than a thrill, Apa moved to Utah to give his children an American education. It is, to him, far and away his greatest accomplishment.

With the children now in Jordan District schools and at the University of Utah, he has begun to turn his attention to the upcoming expedition.

The team plans to go in April or May and to use the trip as a springboard for telling the extraordinary sherpa story, said Jerry Mika. Mika helped bring Apa to Utah, established the Sherpa Adventure Gear clothing line sold with Sherpa and works with him at Karma Clothing in a Canyon Rim strip mall.

"Nobody's given them credit," he said.

Mika, who is helping to organize the historic trip, points out the Everest documentaries focus on the wealthy clients, and none of them "reveal the compelling story of the tireless, dedicated and modest people who guide foreigners to the top of the world."

Mika has lined up a documentary crew to accompany the climbers so the unsung heroes of the mountain can be honored in film. "Their stories have never been told."

The Nepali government has granted the Super Sherpa team permits. Now Mika is looking for sponsors to bankroll the climb and the documentary.

Broughton Coburn, a best-selling author and Himalaya expert, will serve as field writer and scene coordinator. Roger Kehr of Salt Lake County will be base camp manager, and Mika will be base camp coordinator. Discussions are also under way for a production company and a support team.

A small, slim man with a big infectious smile, Apa has seen many tragedies in the mountains as well as triumphs.

He lost his good friend, the legendary climber Babu Chiri Sherpa, in a 2001 expedition only hours after they both received an award from the late King Birenda of Nepal.

In 1996, his good friend Rob Hall died in the ill-fated climb detailed in the book Into Thin Air. Apa was not on that trip because his wife, Yang Jin, had asked him to stay home that summer to finish remodeling their guest lodge and to spend time with their four children, one of whom passed away three years ago.

Ted Wilson, the former Salt Lake City mayor and longtime mountaineer, calls the plan for a 17th attempt "absolutely amazing."

"You really do take your life in your hands every time you go above 7,500 meters, and Everest is more than 8,000 meters," he said, explaining that high-elevation breathing and travel is hazardous to people.

Wilson also noted that sherpas have long been regarded as hired help, rather than athletes in their own right. He's pleased to see their accomplishments and their stories elevated.

"It's about time."

A motivational speaker, Apa says he often gets nervous addressing crowds. He is still learning English. Yet, confronting these jitters is necessary to pay the bills, just as he continued climbing, despite the danger, to send his children to school in Nepal.

He has said what makes him extraordinary is not his physical strength or mental toughness.

He says: "We must have a big heart and be very kind to others."

Book signing

* WHAT: Apa Sherpa, Lhakpa Gelu and Broughton Coburn will sign Himalaya: Personal Stories of Grandeur, Challenge and Hope.

* WHEN: 11 a.m. Sunday

* WHERE: Spotted Frog Bookstore, Redstone Shopping Center, Park City

comments powered by Disqus