The Tibet Mountaineering School, Mount Everest

As philosophers have likened life’s journey to climbing a mountain, here’s an appropriate quote from the article:

“Climbing is a sport without spectators or applause. But as long as you know why you have chosen it, you will enjoy it…

We have to climb slowly. We need to climb step by step.”

Nima Tsering,
founder and principal of
the Tibet Mountaineering School

Climbing the art of survival

(reference: China Daily | Life, 10 May 2011; Feng Xin reports)

qomolangma-mount everest

Qomolangma Mountain
(photo: )

Tibetan youngsters are taking on tasks that were once dominated by Nepal’s Sherpas, in the high mountains of the Himalayas, thanks to a training school established in 1999.

Tsering Samdrup has been busy on the phone since mid-March. As he enters his busiest time of the year, so does Qomolangma, the tallest mountain on Earth. The peak, also known as Mount Everest, welcomes 400 to 500 climbers worldwide each spring, according to the Tibet Mountaineering Association. As an accomplished mountaineer and high-altitude videographer, Tsering is organizing another adventure for a group of climbers in May, the best season to challenge the summit. “The weather, temperature and thickness of ice all make for a perfect climbing season,” says Tsering, who started his professional climbing career in 1999 when he joined the first class of students at Tibet Mountaineering School, established the same year.

The school, one of only two permanent mountaineering schools in the world (the other being France’s l’Ecole Nationale de Ski et D’alpinisme), provides free professional training and boarding for scores of 16- to 18-year old Tibetans, says Nima Tsering, founder and principal of the school.

“I have three strict rules for all students,” he says. “No alcohol, no smoking and no girlfriends.”

This is necessary because of the extreme danger of mountaineering, he explains.

Graduates of the school have scaled Qomolangma more than 130 times as mountain guides, assistants, videographers and chefs accompanying various domestic and international expeditions since 1999.

Before the school’s opening, Sherpas – an ethnic group inhabiting Nepal’s most mountainous regions – typically took these occupations, Nima says.

Students study a variety of subjects in the morning, including Chinese, Tibetan, English and Tibetan history, culture and geography, besides mountaineering theory. Afternoons are devoted to the outdoors and include rock climbing, knowledge of operating equipment, and physical training. Students also get to do two real mountain climbs every spring and fall.

Although all the subjects are mandatory, students go on to specialize in one of the four fields provided by the school curriculum – mountain guidance, assistance, videography and cooking, Nima the principal, says.

Of these specialities, mountain guidance demands the most expertise and experience – to organize a team, select base camps, track weather conditions and decide expedition routes. It takes eight to 10 years of training and practice for a student to become a qualified mountain guide, Nima says. Working as a mountaineering assistant for many years is a pre-requisite for becoming a guide, he adds.

“Climbing is a sport without spectators or applause. But as long as you know why you have chosen it,” he says, “you will enjoy it.”

Meanwhile, striking a note of caution, Nima says: “Tibet is the world’s water tank.”

If the mountaineering industry develops too fast, he says, it will lead to two serious consequences: “First, there will be many accidents and deaths. And second, Tibet’s glaciers will melt more quickly than usual.”

In the past, he points out, many Tibetan porters assisting early climbers did not pay much attention to the environment. But now students of the mountaineering school have to study environment protection as part of their curriculum.

Nima says, “We have to climb slowly. We need to climb step by step.”

Quick Facts

Qomolangma’s summit is also known as Mount Everest.

  • Height:
    8,844.34 m
  • The first person to climb Qomolangma:
    George Mallory (1886-1924) from the United Kingdom on Sept 29, 1921
  • First successful ascent of the summit:
    May 29, 1953, by Sir Edmund Hillary from New Zealand and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay from Nepal
  • First successful Chinese attempt:
    May 25, 1960, led by Wang Fuzhou, Qu Yinhua and Gonbu



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