Sherpa mountaineer Nawang Gombu, first to summit Mount Everest twice, dies

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mount Everest
Image: Pavel Novak.

Sherpa mountaineer Nawang Gombu, 79, the first person to reach the summit of Mount Everest twice, died Sunday morning at his home in Darjeeling, India, located at the base of the Himalayas, his family reported.

Gombu was born in Tibet but later moved with his family to a small village in Nepal near Mount Everest.

When he was about 21, Gombu reached the South Col as the youngest member of Sir Edmund Hilary's team in 1953. On that expedition, Hilary and Tenzing Norgay, Gombu's uncle, were the first to successfully scale Mount Everest.

He was not only an outstanding climber, Gombu was a fine person who guided Indian mountaineering to a greater height.

—Mohan Singh Kohli, leader of the 1965 Indian Everest expedition

Gombu set another record as the first person to reach the mountain's summit twice, first in 1963 with Jim Whittaker on an American expedition and again in 1965 with Captain Awarae Singh Cheema on an Indian expedition.

He scaled many other Himalayan peaks including Makalu, Nanda Devi and Cho Oyu, and is credited with discovering several new mountain routes.

Gombu was one of the "Tigers of the Snow", Sherpa mountain climbers who brought recognition to their their ethnic community in the mountains of Tibet and Nepal.

He was important in the formation of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI), along with other Sherpas. The creation of the Institute was supported by Nehru. Gombu served as Director of Field Training there after Norgay retired from the role, eventually retiring from HMI himself after more than forty years of work for the Institute.

"He was not only an outstanding climber, Gombu was a fine person who guided Indian mountaineering to a greater height," said Mohan Singh Kohli, a retired Navy captain and leader of the 1965 Indian expedition. "Gombu’s death left a big void in the adventure field of the country."

For his work, Gombu received many awards, including medals from Queen Elizabeth II and the National Geographic Society, and was invited to the White House by President Kennedy.

"California teen becomes youngest to conquer Everest" — Wikinews, May 24, 2010