Famed Everest climbing guide has 'day job' in Eastern Washington
Ang Dorjee Sherpa, a famed mountain guide who has summitted Mount Everest 16 times, has a family and "normal" job as a mechanic in Washington's Tri-Cities.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
TRI-CITIES — Ang Dorjee Sherpa has climbed with hundreds of mountaineers up the majestic slopes of Mount Everest during the past two decades. When he's not guiding climbs on the world's tallest peak, he's a wind-turbine mechanic in Eastern Washington.
On March 24, he left his Richland home once again to help guide yet another troupe of thrill seekers up Everest's treacherous slopes.
And though most adventuresome folks are awed by Ang Dorjee's accomplishments, this world-renowned mountain-climbing guide remains humbled by life as well as the 29,029-foot mountain.
"After so many climbs, it does become a little routine doing the same thing every day, like any job you do for many years," he said with a smile.
Ang Dorjee, 42, was happy to get home from his 16th summit of Mount Everest to spend time with his wife, Michelle Gregory, and their two children.
"I've made the climb 18 times but two of those trips, we were forced to turn around before reaching the top," he said.
Ang Dorjee grew up in Nepal and made his first Everest climb at age 22. Since then, he's become a legend for guiding numerous expeditions, not only in Tibet but also Pakistan, Europe and South America.
Danger is common when scaling high peaks, but this year, climbs on Mount Everest took an exceptional toll on human life, as seven people died. There were no deaths on his most recent trip, Ang Dorjee said.
There are all sorts of theories as to why so many climbers died during this particular mountaineering season, but Ang Dorjee said he knew of only one, a guide, who died because of human error.
"A safety hook was not attached correctly (while crossing a ladder bridge), and he fell into a crevasse," he said. Some climbers go their own way without guides, and that can sometimes be deadly, he added.
Ang Dorjee was a guide in 1996, a disastrous year when 15 people died trying to climb Everest. Journalist Jon Krakauer, who summitted with Ang Dorjee's group, wrote the best-seller "Into Thin Air" about the experience.
Ang Dorjee works as a wind-turbine mechanic for H & N Electric Motors in Pasco when he isn't leading clients in the Himalayas. And even though he's thousands of miles from home when he climbs, he talks to his wife and children via mobile phone every day.
"Sometimes, I have to use a satellite phone, but mostly we can talk on a cellphone," he said. He plans to stay home this summer but will return to Nepal in October with his family to lead a few smaller treks through the lower elevations of the Himalayas.
One of those climbs will be to Island Peak, a 20,305-foot mountain also known as Imja Tse. It's one of the most popular climbing peaks in Nepal.
"It's only a one-day climb, but it's higher and a more technical climb than Mount Rainier," he said.
He also suggested he might climb Mount Everest just a couple more times before he gives up the mountain for good.
"I have lots of yard work and catching up with my kids to do," he said. "But you just never know."