Interview

Ang Tshering Sherpa, President, NMA

Mr. Ang Tshering Sherpa, born on November 15, 1953 in Khumjung village of Solukhumbu district in Nepal, is serving his second stint as the President of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA). Since childhood he had been fascinated with mountaineering when he used to see his uncles and relatives going with foreign mountaineers in various capacities. With a command over the English, he even became an interpreter. Later on, he went on and handled many expeditions.

Mr. Sherpa is the Chairman of the Asian Airlines Helicopter (P.) Ltd, Asian Adventure Travel & Tours (P.)Ltd., Chairman/Managing Director of Asian Trekking (P.) Ltd. among others. As a student, he had embarked on studies to become a doctor but due to various reasons he could not complete it. Now, he is actively involved in the tourism sector. He has a thirty year experience in the travel trade sector. Mr. Sherpa is the Honorary Consul of Belgium to Nepal. He is also the member of various organizations in the country and has a busy schedule making various trips both business and official ones related to his profession.

He has been decorated with the Knight in the Order of Leopold by King Albert II of Belgium, Suprabal Gorkha Dakshin Bahu and other awards both in Nepal and abroad. In a talk with Dr. Hari Prasad Shrestha and Prem N. Kakkar for Nepal Parbat, he had many things to say as the NMA President and for mountain tourism in general.

Excerpts:
Could you elaborate on your initiation to mountaineering and the related experiences?
I want to say that as my house lay on the route to Everest, I saw my relatives and uncles going on expeditions as guides around 1967. But there was a paradox: they could hardly speak the English language. Meanwhile, I was studying in the Hillary School with teachers from New Zealand. So I got the idea of spoken and written English. That enabled me to act as an interpreter and even went to the Everest base camp. In the early 1970s, I handled many expeditions. In 1977, I went as far as the South Col (8,000 m.) but the weather turned unfavourable and I could not reach the summit.
Similarly, I could not summit Dhaulagiri and Api and returned from a height of 7,700 m. and 7,000 m. respectively. However, I summitted Chulu West, Mera Peak, Island Peak, Pisang Peak so on.
The case was different in Europe where I had many guides as friends. There I climbed the Alps in Switzerland, Italy, Austria and France.
I also had mountaineering training and experience to help me. It was knowledge and practical experience that helped me to a great extent.
In 1973, I appeared for the I.Sc. exam and there was a gap of some months for the results to be declared. So I joined a trekking agency. In 1975, I joined a medical science institute to become a doctor. But, mid-way I became sick and had to abandon my went on an autumn expedition to Everest.
In my career, I have handled over 180 expedition teams to Everest which have included Chris Bonnington, Messner, Wielicki and other eminent international mountaineers. In fact, I have worked with almost every eminent over-8,000 m. climbers. In the course of my career, I
have handled over 1000 teams to various peaks. With all that, the Asian Trekking was established in 1982.

What are the Challenges that you see in leading NMA as its President?
The very good factor has been that the NMA team is good. I am lucky that I have such cooperative and supportive colleagues. The team spirit is a permanent feature. Though there are challenges, we are determined to overcome them. A main challenge had been the decade long conflict, the decline in tourist inflow and the opening up of peaks by our neighbours. Now that peace has been assured, the main problem is the cheaper royalty fees by our neighbouring countries specially for the border peaks. Moreover, the bordering peaks in the neighbouring
peaks have easier accessibility.
Therefore, there is tough competition. The problems have been apprised to the various ministers but real action is yet to materialize. Political instability is a problem. But optimism is rising for better days ahead.

What have been NMA’s achievements particularly under your leadership and support from the executive members?
Complete achievement as planned is yet to be materialise. However, NMA is dedicated to make mountaineering activities professional, and work for mountain environment preservation. The establishment and functioning of the International Mountain Museum (IMM) in Pokhara,

International Mountaineers Memorial Park (IMMP) in Kakani, various levels of mountaineering training, clean up campaigns of the mountain environment, institution of various prestigious awards,acting as implementation agency for the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Mt. Everest, Cho-Oyu, Makalu and Kanchenjunga and so on have been quite encouraging. We have been quite successful in meeting the stated goals. In discharging my duties as the Chief NMA executive, I haven’t found running the association of much difficulty and controversy because of the unflinching support and cooperation from all our executive members and general members. Moreover, time management has made me devote time for NMA’s development despite my other professional involvements.

Could you say something about the upcoming conference on mountainineering, environmentand bio-diversity?
In this connection, the conference scheduled for 11~12 December on mountaineering and environment is quite significant. A special focus will be on global warming that has led to the shrinking of major glaciers and of the disappearances of smaller ones. Glacial lake outbursts are also a problem as it can lead to a great loss of life and property. The prevention of such is of utmost importance. The need is to check CO2 emissions for which strategies are underway on a global scale. Suggestions will be forthcoming from the conference to control it.

How do you evaluate the Golden Jubilee Celebrations for which NMA was the implementing agency?
Mt. Everest Golden Jubilee was a big success with NMA’s exemplary role as the implementing agency assigned by the government. NMA contributed a lot in the successes of the past four golden jubilee celebrations. Now, it has braced for similar celebrationd of Manaslu & Lhotse. Expectationd are very high as hundreds of Japanese and other mountaineers and mountain lovers are to converge in Kathmandu.

How is NMA’s relations with international mountain related associations & organizations?
The affiliation to UAAA, UIAA, IMA has been very fruitful. NMA is the vice president of UAAA and IMA. Though it was offered the post of vice president of UIAA, it did not take it up but it is an active member of UIAA. It has very excellent relations with all the alpine associations of the world.
An example has been the Nangpai Gosum expedition to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Nepal and Japan. Similarly, the 50 years of diplomatic ties between Nepal and China was celebrated by a join expedition scaling an unnamed peak. The golden jubilee of diplomatic ties between Nepal and Russia was also celebrated with great importance. Slovenia and France have helped in the running of NMA’s mountaineering training courses. Slovenia has been sending instructors for basic mountaineering courses while France has done a lot for advanced mountaineering courses. Now, a Mountaineering Training Academy is being set up at Thame and NMA has made a contribution of Rs. 50,00,000 for the purpose.

Relations with the Tourism Ministry and other line agencies and associations?
Very good.

There have been some people saying that transparency is lacking in NMA functions. What do you have to say on this?
As for the allegations of the lack of transparency of NMA from some people, I want to make it clear that NMA is transparent as its balance sheets are distributed to the Tourism Ministry, allied agencies and general members every year. It is plain and clear for everyone to see and analyse. The issue has been raised by people belonging to vested interest group particularly those who have faced defeat in the NMA elections and taken this issue to defame the present NMA leadership and is tantamount to character assassination of the members of the central xecutive board. Hence, all false accusations of the lack of transparency in NMA dealing has no basis at all.

Can you highlight the role of rescue operations?
I feel that NMA is convinced that a permanent high rescue team has to come in place because of the high frequency of mishaps in the mountains and the high Himalayan region. The need is great to mobilize trained personnel for the purpose. USA, Russia, Canada, Norway and other countries are very developed with respect to high rescue attempts. Nepal too has to develop this expertise with the assistance and training from instructors of those countries. In this regard, we have talked with the respective alpine clubs and the response has been positive. I must herein praise the fantastic role played by the NMA rescue team in the tasks entrusted in the Ghunsa, Taplejung district, helicopter accident on September 23, 2006 in which our chief advisor Dr. Harka Gurung together with two general members died.