It is with great sadness that I write of the passing of my friend Namygal Sherpa. Although Namygal’s passing occurred in May of 2013 I only learned of it recently. Namygal was guiding a client down from the summit of Mount Everest, when at 8,300m he suffered a heart failure and died. It was Namygal’s 10th time on the summit of Everest.
I first met Namygal on an expedition to Ama Dablam in 2006. Very quickly it became apparent to me that Namygal was a very special individual. Quietly spoken and humble with a very warm heart, it was obvious that he was not only a highly-talented mountaineer but also a very ambitious businessman, and he represented the new breed of Sherpa climbers who realised that a significant opportunity lay before them. For many years Western commercial guiding businesses had done very well out of Himalayan guiding, with most profits heading offshore. Namygal was one of the first to realise that Nepali Sherpas could offer the same level of service and in doing so keep the profits within Nepal.
I didn’t see Namygal again until four years later, when I ran into him on Everest in 2010. He was leading the first all-Nepali mountain clean-up expedition, and I was thoroughly impressed with what I saw – he had clearly matured considerably and looked very comfortable leading a large team of climbers on the mountain.
The last time that I saw Namygal was about 11 months ago, just above the village of Pangboche – I was coming back down from a climb up Lobuche East with a small team and we were about to cross the Imja Khola and head up into Ama Dablam BC, and he was taking a German client up to Everest BC and over the Cho La. He was his usual softly-spoken but happy self and we enjoyed chatting for 10 minutes and sharing stories before we each had to be on our ways. We agreed to catch up in Kathmandu upon our return. After a fortnight on Ama Dablam I was quite exhausted and back in Kathmandu I never gave Namygal a call. I figured I’d see him next time I was in Nepal. Now of course that is impossible and I truly regret not arranging that catch-up back in Kathmandu. Namygal was one of the really good guys; he is sorely missed.
Vale Marty Schmidt
It was literally only a few days after hearing of Namygal’s passing that I learned of Marty Schmidt’s loss on K2. Marty was climbing with his son Denali when it is thought they were swept away from Camp 3 in an avalanche. I didn’t know Marty particularly well but had spent some time with him on Cho Oyu in 2009; his absolute enthusiasm for mountaineering ensured I would always remember him. On that particular trip he’d lost his climbing partner to a heart attack on the descent, and Marty was quite gutted. Now there are a lot more people gutted.
The world is poorer for the loss of these two climbers.