Ang Tshering Lama

Sep 13, 2011
Outside Magazine

   Photo: David Hanson

Ang Tshering Lama

Ang Tshering Lama, 39
Lives in: Kathmandu, Nepal
Profession: Guiding, trekking in the mountains
Favorite part of work: Being outside
Least favorite: Whingeing clients
What do you like to do in your free time: Just go out, explore more. Just like to be out all the time.
If you could travel anywhere: Antarctica, New Zealand, Australia
If you could write a book: My autobiography
The last meal you ate: Biscuits and gravy with reindeer sausage. They’re good. Too big, though.
Are you religious: Do I look like it?
Trick of the trade: Go light. Have the right attitude. Be positive.

Ang was a volunteer on our patrol. He likes the mountains more than anyone I know. He wanted to stay at 17 Camp for longer than our week patrol time. That is strange—no one wants to be at the cold, hypoxic, freeze-dried-meal-and-frozen-energy-bars 17 Camp for more than a few days.

But if Ang has foot powder, hot sauce (a couple varieties—Latin American and Asian, ideally), fresh garlic and onion, a few nips of whiskey, and boiling-hot water, then he is content.

Ang made it to the mountain thanks to an exchange program set up between Denali National Park and the Khumbu Climbing Center (KCC), a training program begun by various climbers with a mission to train Nepalese Sherpas to be more proficient climbers and guides. The long-term hope is that technical expertise will render them safer on the mountain and open the door for them to start their own trekking and guiding businesses.

Ang has operated Angs Himalayan Adventures for years. He leads treks throughout his homeland, and he’s taken advantage of as many training and exchange programs available. He instructs fellow Nepalese at KCC, where he met Brandon Latham, our patrol’s ranger. Four years ago, Latham created the exchange program between KCC and Denali. Latham wanted the Nepalese mountaineers to experience perhaps the best-managed big mountain in the world. The Park Service presence at and maintenance of the West Buttress route is unparalleled. It’s like having a remote ranger station at three camps (base camp, 14 Camp, and 17 Camp) during the crux of the climbing season (May through mid-July). It keeps things clean and, ostensibly, as safe as possible. Without the Park Service this season, for example, there would likely be at least three more deaths, since the Football Field evac coordinated by Ranger Tucker Chenoweth on July 9 likely would not have happened and the men would have perished without a quick escape down.

Ang knows that the best way to clean up the often trashy mountain scene on many of the Himalaya’s most beautiful peaks is to learn best practices on other mountains and bring the knowledge back to his and other exchange participants’ communities. Word of mouth goes a long way in the Nepalese climbing world, where the guiding and Sherpa profession is one of the best lifestyles available to young adults.

Ang, fortunately, is not afraid to talk. He knew half the people we met, and if he didn’t know someone, he’d introduce himself and use a quick web of names to create a tangential connection. Ang works the scene because he loves mountains and leading people into them. He wants to learn how to protect mountains so he can spread that knowledge and ethic in his homeland.

The biggest question for mountaineers is probably “Why go up there?” I don’t know, and I didn’t ask these people. It could be a number of things: work, fun, ego, completing a sort of puzzle, overcoming something, pure curiosity. I think everyone here knows that when you put yourself in a challenging situation, even with a contrived scenario like reaching a summit, you learn something new.