Mar 21, 2013

The People You Meet: Tashi Sherpa, President & Member, Sherpa Adventure Gear family


In November 2012, whilst in Kathmandu and just back from expeditions to Makalu and Ama Dablam, I stopped into the  Sherpa Adventure Gear flagship Kathmandu shop, to pick up a few Christmas presents for my family and say ‘hi’ to the friendly team. The gorgeous store, spread over three floors with a traditional, dark wood interior contrasted by the bright, welcoming displays of jackets, fleeces, hand-knit hats, and outdoor kit, is an oasis of tranquillity in the dusty and chaotic hustle and bustle of the city.

My visit coincided with that of the President and founding member of the Sherpa Adventure Gear family, Tashi Sherpa.  From the moment of my arrival in the shop I’m again treated to true Sherpa hospitality as am escorted up to the rooftop terrace and treated to an absolutely delicious curry lunch and aromatic tea while Tashi smiles calmly and shares his story. What strikes me from the outset is the philosophical and almost poetic nature of his words – how he seemingly effortlessly has combined years of concrete business experience with a holistic philosophy and spirit that has led the brand from strength to strength since it was founded 10 years ago.


The 'Backstory' of this unique and historical brand...
10 years ago, Tashi and his family owned an import clothing business in the US. Whilst on his travels, a magazine featuring a very recognisable and familiar face commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of Everest caught his eye. The craggy lines of the familiar face staring at him from the cover belonged to none other than his uncle, Ang Gyalzen Sherpa - one of the original Sherpa on Sir Edmund Hillary’s celebrated expedition in 1953 which first reached ‘the roof of the world’.

Though often unrecognised for their contributions to mountaineering expeditions, the Sherpas are the unsung heroes on the slopes of the Himalayan giants including Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Makalu… just to name a few…! For it is the Sherpa who set the routes, carry the loads and lay the rope all the way to the summit and back. They risk their lives for a pittance and smile through the life threatening ordeals on the flanks of Everest and surrounding peaks. But rarely do they receive any of the fame or recognition that follows a successful summit.

As Tashi Sherpa stared into the wise-eyes of his uncles’ weathered face, and read the story of the many unsung Sherpa heroes like his uncle who live in total anonymity—and often utter poverty—in the shadow of Everest, he felt a powerful urge to share the Sherpa story with a wider audience. So he created Sherpa Adventure Gear and began making outdoor clothing and gear. He then started sponsoring the best high altitude climbers in the world to test the products - the Sherpas themselves.

“From the highest reaches of the Himalayas, our people lead the world in mountaineering with warmth, grace and good humor. In our humble experience, there is no better place for testing equipment - and character”

Giving back...
Since its inception, the majority of Sherpa Adventure Gear products are designed and manufactured in Nepal where it employs over 150 people.  It's also committed to continued manufacturing in the country, which is crucial, because for all its astonishing scenic beauty and the sheer loveliness of its people and culture, Nepal is an incredibly poor and both politically and economically unstable country, so it needs all the foreign currency and employment opportunities it can get.

One of Tashi’s main goals in creating this company was to support and honour these people who do so much for so little.  Up to $.50 from every product sold goes to a special fund for the underprivileged Sherpa children of Nepal called the Paldorje Education Fund.

The Paldorje Education Fund "provides much-needed headstart scholarships to less fortunate Sherpa children. In Nepal, where many children grow up in remote mountain villages deprived of basic education, it is the our mission to help those in the next generation find their way to a brighter future. By doing this, we honor the dreams of our elders to make a better world." Approximately a dozen children currently benefit from the company’s education initiatives, which typically fund a child’s entire education through high school, and for some, through college. 

Sherpa Adventure Gear is also in the process of setting up additional non-profit partnerships to benefit the health, education, and welfare of underprivileged Sherpa children.

Each season the Sherpa Adventure Gear family grows. But at the core it will always be a small company with a simple vision of doing business in the inimitable way of the Sherpas… One step at a time, helping each other on the climb up, and never losing sight of the destination. 



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