Chhiring Dorje Sherpa
Mountaineer | Founder, Rolwaling Excursion
Chhiring Dorje Sherpa is an accomplished mountaineer and respected guide 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 high altitude worker for Western expeditions to support his family. Since then, he has guided some 40 expeditions in the Himalaya, reaching the summit of Everest 16 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.
Chhiring’s Major Summits
No of Summits
Mount Everest, 2007: Three Summits in a single climbing-season, and the placing of Buddha statue on the summit
In the spring climbing season of 2007, Chhiring assumed an important role in the Indian Army Everest Expedition. He was appointed as the Climbing Sirdir, for the team comprising of 20 members and 13 Sherpas. This was the first expedition by Indian Army to Everest from the Tibet side, also called the North face; and the expedition was led by Lt. Colonel Ishwor Singh Thapa.
Along with his responsibility to ensure successful summits by the whole team, Chhiring wanted to execute a noble plan – to place the holy statue of the Buddha on the summit of Everest. Thus, on 2nd May 2007, on the very day of ‘Buddha Jayanti’ (Birth Anniversary of Lord Buddha) Chhiring with the assistance of his fellow climber Phurba Chotar Sherpa reached on the summit of Everest to place the holy stupa of Lord Buddha.
The stupa was consecrated by a high lama, Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche, in Kathmandu, and it was carried all the way to the summit by two of them and placed firmly on the summit, which still stands there. Chhiring’s wish was to make prayer for world peace; and particularly appeal the political leaders of Nepal to end the decade long civil war and promote peace in the nation, which he did by delivering an hour-long video message from the summit.
Week later, on 15 th May, he led a team of seven Indian soldiers to the summit. Again, on 16 th May, he led the second team comprising of six soldiers to the summit successfully. Thus, he achieved three summits in a span of two weeks, in a single climbing season.
K2, 2008: Summit without Supplementary Oxygen and the Dangerous Rescue
One of the climbing goals, which Chhiring always had, was to summit K2. In July 2008 Chhiring joined as a member of an international expedition team called ‘USA International K-2 Expedition 2008’.
Chhiring climbed without bottled oxygen, and summited K-2 on August 1. A record number of eighteen climbers from different teams summited that day. It was then, one of the worst climbing disaster struck on K2. Huge Icefall collapse at the infamous Bottleneck section resulted in the deaths of eleven climbers, whereas several climbers were stranded, including Chhiring. However, Chhiring out of his bravery risked his own life and performed a dangerous rescue to save a fellow climber. In recognition and in an honor of his selfless performance in K2 Chhiring was later awarded with the prestigious ‘Tenzing Norgay Award’ in 2013.
A detailed story of the K2 incident and biography of Chhiring is documented in the book ‘Buried in the Sky’.
Interesting Reads about Chhiring
Awards and Recognitions
The Tenzing Norgay Award
On 16th March 2013, Chhiring received the prestigious ‘The Tenzing Norgay Award’ from the Explorers Club of America. This award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated exceptional mountaineering in the spirit of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, one of the two first men to summit Mount Everest in 1953.
Certificate of Appreciation from APJ Abdul Kalam
In 2005 Chhiring had an honor of receiving a certificate of appreciation by President APJ Abdul Kalam of India for his service and contribution in the Indian Army Women Everest Expedition.
Mentor at American 300
Chhiring is also honored to be one of the mentors at American 300, a non-profit organization that mentors US troops around the globe. He is also part of the Purple Heart Summits project.
At Tierra and Big Agnes
Chhiring works closely with Tierra brand of Sweden and Big Agnes of USA as part of the professional test team.
Buried in The Sky
Chhiring’s life story is recounted in Buried in the Sky, a book that Outside magazine has described as a contemporary mountaineering classic.
Early life and Mountaineering Career
Chhiring was born into a family of Sherpa herders and farmers in the remote mountain valley of Rolwaling. His mother tragically passed away during childbirth when Chhiring was just 12, leaving him the head of the family. In order to support his younger siblings, Chhiring accepted a job as a porter for trekking and mountaineering expeditions. Over the years, he developed skills as a mountaineering guide. His first mountaineering expedition was in 1991. He reached 8000m Everest. He was then 16 years old. Since then, Chhiring worked with and guided more than 40 expeditions.
Event Timeline of Chhiring Dorje Sherpa
Everest (South Face-Nepal)
At 16, Chhiring took his first job as a high-altitude worker. He reached up to 8100m carrying expedition supplies for the Nepalese Women’s Everest Expedition.
Makalu II, 7678m
In April 1993, Chhiring climbed Makalu II, 7678 m with a French team.
Everest (North Face – Tibet)
In the spring of 1994 Chhiring worked as climbing sherpa for the Norwegian Everest Expedition. He reached Camp 3 at 7000m. However, the whole expedition was cancelled due to avalanches.
In April-May of 1995, Chhiring was part of the climbing Sherpa team for Japan’s Nihon University Everest Expedition, attempting the North-East Ridge route. He reached up to 8500m, but was not permitted to summit.
Chhiring summited his first 8000m peak with the Japanese Shisapangma Expedition. He reached the central summit of Shishapangma on September 26 with client Tomiyasu Ishikawa.
Cho Oyu and Manaslu
In the spring of 1996, Chhiring summited twice – first on May 8 with four Japanese clients of the Japanese Sapporo Group, then on May 9 with four more clients.
In the autumn of 1996, Chhiring joined the Tokyo Alpine Club Manaslu Expedition as a climbing guide and summited with the client Tomiyasu Ishikawa.
Everest (North Face-Tibet)
In the spring of 1998, Chhiring joined the Sherpa team of the Japanese Everest Expedition/TV Asahi led by Noriyuko Muraguchi. He summited on May 19 with Mr. Muraguchi. This was Chhiring’s first summit of Everest.
With the DAV Pumori Expedition, Chhiring summited on October 16 with expedition leader Zbigniew Mlyanrczyk.
Shisapangma and Cho Oyu
In the autumn, Chhiring worked for the Sherpa Mandala Swiss Double Expedition to Shisapangma and ChoOyu. He summited Shisapangma on September 29 and Cho Oyu on October 15.
Everest (North Face, Tibet)
Japanese Everest Expedition:
On May 17, 2002, Chhiring guided Tomi Ishigawa of Japan to the summit. Mr. Tomiyasu Ishikawa, then 65, became the oldest Japanese person to summit Everest.
Everest – British Royal Navy and Royal Marines Expedition
In the spring of 2003, Chhiring worked with the British Royal Navy and Royal Marines Everest North Route Expedition team led by Lt. Colonel Nicholas Arding. Chhiring played a crucial role in handling the sherpa team and the climbing efforts. He summited on May 22.
Everest and Himlung
On May 18, 2004, Chhiring summited Everest from the North Face route with an American team. On October 21, he climbed 7126m. Himlung with his client Tabone Milann Wainer of Germany.
Everest – Indian Women’s Army Expedition
In the spring of 2005, the first Indian Women’s Everest Expedition hired Chhiring as their climbing guide. On June 2, he lead four members to the summit – Captain Ashwini Pawa, Captain Sipra Majumdar, trainee Dechen Lhamo, and cadet Tshering Ladol. He was later honored by President Abdul Kalam in New Delhi.
Cho Oyu: Later that year, On October 9, Chhiring summited Cho Oyu with Mr. Edmund Spoden of Belgium.
Cho Oyu –summited twice
In the spring of 2006, Chhiring was hired as a climbing sirdar for the Indian Army Expedition team comprising of 19 members led by Lt Colonel Anand Swaroop. Chhiring successfully led 13 members, divided into two groups, to the summit on May 24 and 26.
Everest, 3 times and the placement of a statue of Buddha on the summit
The spring of 2007 was a remarkable climbing season for Chhiring. He worked as a climbing sirdar for an Indian Army Everest Expedition from the North Face. It comprised of 20 members. On May 2, coinciding with the Buddhapurnima (birth anniversary of Buddha), Chhiring placed a statue of Buddha on the summit of Everest with the help of fellow climber Ang Jangbu Sherpa. On May 15, he led 7 members to the summit and 6 members to the summit on May 16.
Everest & K2
Everest: In the spring of 2008, on May 23, Chhiring summited Everest with Ms. Agnieszka of Poland. Ms. Agnieszka holds the record of completing seven summits.
K2: Later that year, in July, Chhiring joined an International K2 team, this time not as a guide but as a member of the team. He summited on August 1, without the use of supplementary oxygen, becoming the second Nepalese to summit K2 without supplementary oxygen. It was then that the K2 disaster occurred –an icefall collapse at K2’s Bottleneck, which leads to the deaths of eleven climbers. Chhiring risked his life to save a stranded climber.
Makalu and Lhotse
In the spring of 2009, Chhiring, Fredrik Strang, and Niklas Jan Hallstrom of Sweden climbed two 8000m mountains, Makalu and Lhotse within 20 days. First, they summited Makalu on May 2, 2009, and then Lhotse on May 22, 2009. Fredrik Strang and Niklas Jan Hallstrom became the first Swedish to climb Makalu.
Chhiring led an International Makalu Expedition in the spring of 2010. Chhiring summited on May 23.
Everest and Manaslu
On May 20, Chhiring and Annelie Pompe of Sweden summited Everest from the Tibetan side. Earlier that year Ms. Pompe achieved a world record for deep diving. She became the first Swedish woman to climb Everest from the Northside. Later that year, Chhiring led an International Manaslu Expedition team. He and his clients- Edmund Spoden of Belgium and Bernhard Stoll of Italy-reached the summit on October 4. They all climbed without the use of supplementary oxygen.
In the spring of 2012, Chhiring led International RE Everest Expedition. The expedition members were Mr. Nurhuda, Iwan Irawan, and Galih Donikara, from Indonesian Seven Summits Expedition Team and Peter Hiden and Lars F. Sandelius from Sweden. The expedition was 100% successful.
On October 2, Chhiring and Carina Ahlqvist, a member of the RE Swedish Cho Oyu expedition summited Cho Oyu.
Manaslu and Annapurna Expedition
In October 2015, Chhiring led a Swedish Manaslu Expedition. On October, 1 Chhiring with his longtime friend and client Fredrik Strang of Sweden reached the main summit of Manaslu. Fredrik is a well-known climber who holds the record of the first Swede to complete the Seven Summits. After Manaslu, Chhiring and Fredrik went for a winter Annapurna Expedition in December. However, a strong wind storm of about 100km/hr made progress to high camps impossible and the expedition had to be aborted.
Cho Oyu & Everest Expedition– aborted due to Earthquake
In April 2015, Chhiring was leading an Expedition in Cho Oyu and Everest when a catastrophic earthquake struck Nepal. Fortunately, there were no casualties on the team, but both the expeditions had to be aborted. Chhiring and his friend Robin Trygg devoted themselves to helping affected communities with urgent relief work. They spent some time reaching remote villages and distributed relief materials.
Cho Oyu: September-October – summited twice
In the autumn of 2016, Chhiring led the RE German Cho Oyu Expedition consisting of 6 clients. He summited twice, guiding four of the clients: on 3rd October with clients Erwin Pfeffer and Georg Krautgartner of Austria ; and on October 4 with Joachim Alle and Guido Schuller of Germany.
Everest and Cho Oyu: April-May
In the spring of 2016, Chhiring led two expeditions – Everest and Cho Oyu. On May 7, Chhiring and his clients Robin Trygg of Sweden and Nikolaus Gruber of Italy summited Cho Oyu. Then on May 20, Chhiring and Robin summited Everest. Robin Trygg holds the record of youngest Swede to climb Everest from both sides – Nepal and Tibet. The journey of Robin and Chhiring can be viewed in the documentary Borton Tingri. Also, members from the same team, Maria Granberg of Sweden, summited with Pemba Rita Sherpa on May 24, and another member Thomas Laemmle of Germany summited on May 23 without supplementary oxygen and Sherpa support, becoming the first German to achieve this feat.
Everest North (Tibet/China)
In the spring of 2017, the RE International Everest Expedition included two special projects: one was Purple Heart recipient Benjamin Breckheimer’s Everest mission, supported by American 300; the other was Polish climber Grazyna Machnik’s quest to complete the Explorers Grand Slam, which she did. She is the first Polish person to achieve this feat. On May 22, Chhiring, Benjamin, Grazny, and Pasang Lama summited. On May 21, team member Erik Akerberg of Sweden summited with Ang Mingma Sherpa.
Everest North (Tibet/China) – summit twice
In the spring of 2018, the RE International Everest Expedition led by Chhiring had 100% success. On May 16, Chhiring stood on the summit with his client, Bjorn Lindwall of Sweden. Mr. Lindwall became the oldest Swedish person to summit Everest. Again, on May 20, Chhiring summited for the second time with another client, Sylwester Twardowski of Poland. Remaining team members Krypel Tomasz and Lukasz Lagozny summited on May 16 with Ang Mingma Sherpa.
In October 2019, Chhiring led a Swedish Ama Dablam Team comprising of Annelie Pompe and Bjorn Lindwall. They summited Ama Dablam on October 29.
Honorable Recognition from following Organizations