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Chhiring Dorje Sherpa

Chhiring Dorje Sherpa is an accomplished mountaineer who has demonstrated extraordinary heroism in extreme conditions.  Born in Nepal’s Rolwaling Valley in 1974, Chhiring began climbing at age 12, working as a porter for Western expeditions to support his family. Since then, he has guided some 40 expeditions in the Himalaya, reaching the summit of Everest 11 times. Three of his Everest summits were attained within the span of two weeks during a single climbing season. But it was his selfless commitment to a fellow climber rather than his summit record that has earned him a place in the constellation of mountaineering greats. On the fateful night of August 1, 2008—when 11 people lost their lives on the summit of K2, the deadliest single disaster on world’s most dangerous peak—Chhiring performed one of the most daring rescues in climbing history.

With all ropes severed by blocks of ice, calving from the seracs above, Chhiring had begun a descent of the mountain in total darkness when he encountered Pasang Lama, a member of another expedition, who he found trapped on a lethal wall of ice called known as the Bottleneck.  Without a moment’s hesitation, Chhiring leashed Pasang’s harness to his own and resumed his descent knowing full well that if Pasang slipped, they in all likelihood would die as Pasang had generously forfeited his own ice axe to a member of his party. Although Pasang did slip twice, miraculously, Chhiring was able to arrest their fall with his ice axe.

When he isn’t climbing, Chhiring is working to preserve the indigenous culture of the Rolwaling Valley. With his unwavering commitment to his fellow mountaineers, Chhiring Dorje Sherpa embodies the qualities exhibited by Tenzing Norgay, in whose honor the eponymous award was established.

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Background image photography courtesy of members Christoph Baumer, Neil Laughton, Matt Harris and Don Walsh's image of the Bathyscape Trieste