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The Living Legend

Gyalzen Sherpa (Pal Dorje Sherpa) known as Gyalzen Mahajen in the Khumbu region was born in 1920 A.D. in Namche Bazaar. Uneducated due to lack of schools in the Khumbu during that time, he spent his childhood herding yaks and collecting firewood. At the age of 22 he married a sherpa girl from Namche Bazaar named Pemba Lhaki Sherpa and were blessed with 9 children but unfortunately only 2 out of nine survived.

Sherpas have been recruited as high altitude porters by expeditions as early as the 1920s. Because Nepal was closed to westerners, Darjeeling , near Kachenjunga in India was the base of all major climbing expeditions. Lots of people during his time migrated from the Khumbu to Darjeeling in search of mountaineering jobs .The fancy clothing and wrist watches of those sherpas who had returned from such expedition attracted him very much to climbing. But, being the youngest he was compelled to remain back in the Khumbu and take over his family business of yak herding and salt trading. Nevertheless, his passion for joining a climbing expedition from Darjeeling stayed in his dreams.

However, where there is will there is a way. When Nepal opened its borders to westerners in the early 1950s, expeditions began recruiting climbing Sherpas from Nepal instead of Darjeeling. As a result he got his first break in the year 1952 when the Swiss Expedition to Mount Everest guided by Tenzing Norgey Sherpa hired him as a high altitude porter. On his very first expedition he hauled oxygen and other necessary climbing supplies three times to south col at the height of 26000 feet.

After 1952 was no looking back for him. He accompanied numerous expeditions including the historic successful British expedition led by Lord John Hunt which placed Tenzing Norgey Sherpa and Sir. Edmund Hillary on the summit on May 29th 1953. Being a part of the successful expedition he was honored by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation Medal. He was also honored by the 1965 Indian Everest expedition which placed the first Indian on the top of the world.

He continued his remarkable journey till the early 1970s. He began climbing as a high altitude porter and retired as a Sirdar (Head guide). After his retirement he devoted all his time for the development of the Sherpa community. He was chosen as the Chorinba (community leader of the monastery) and served the people of Khumbu for 35 years from 1965 till 2000. He lives now at the age of 83 live with his family in Namche Bazar. He is one of the oldest surviving climbers in the world. A living legend for the Sherpa community. -- List of his major expeditions 1952: Swiss Expedition 1953: British Expedition 1955: Indian Expedition 1956: Yeti Expedition 1959: First Cho-oyu Woman's Expedition 1960: Indian Expedition 1962: Indian Expedition 1965: Indian Expedition