In 1952, Kancha Sherpa, a 19-year old boy from Namche Bazaar, Nepal ran away from his home to seek work as a mountaineer in Darjeeling, India. Kancha and three of his friends decided to go to Darjeeling to see if they could get work on an expedition. Kancha’s friends each had Rs.15 and 20 for the journey but he had none, so he hid some corn in his shirt without telling his mother. They left at night and got to Chaurikharka, constantly looking back to see if their family members were following them. It took them four days of walking over the hills to get to Darjeeling. While on their journey, they survived on makkai (popcorn) and Chyang (rice beer).
In Darjeeling, Kancha and his friends met a woman from Thame village, who guided them to Tenzing Norgay’s little house. Tenzing knew Kancha’s father and so he took Kancha in to work right away, while his friends had to find work elsewhere. Tenzing liked Kancha’s work, cleaning and getting firewood, which convinced him to take Kancha to Everest in a month. Kancha was so happy that he carried even more firewood .Thus, in 1953 Kancha was chosen as one of the 103 Sherpas to join the Sir Edmund Hillary-expedition to climb Mount Everest. Kancha agreed to work as a porter in the 1953 Everest Expedition for a daily wage of Rs. 5 which was paid in coins at that time.
Kancha worked on expeditions until 1973, after his wife told him to stop as many of his friends had been killed in the mountains. Afterwards, Kancha started working trekking. Being illiterate, Kancha had to keep accounts on trek with his beads and would always have someone make his notes.
At present, Kancha is a happy, old man with his prayer wheels always by his side. He vividly remembers every moment of the 1953 Everest Expedition and reminisces the past old, hard days. He lives with his younger son, Tshering in his newly built lodge in Namche during the summer and goes to Kathmandu to stay with his elder daughter, Dawa during the winter.
Meet Kancha Sherpa
Get a chance to meet Kancha Sherpa at Nirvana Home, Namche Bazaar.
Listen more to his stories and experience on 1953 Everest Expedition.