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Shambhu Tamang obituary: Legendary mountaineer and record-setter

Anushka Nepal

Anushka Nepal

Shambhu Tamang obituary: Legendary mountaineer and record-setter

On 5 May 1973, Tamang summited Everest to become the youngest person—at 17 years, six months and 15 days

Shambhu Tamang, a noted mountaineer who held the record of the world’s youngest Everest climber for 28 years, died on July 7 after a long battle with cancer. He was 69.

Born in Sindhupalchowk district, Tamang developed a fascination for climbing mountains as a young boy. He used to see Sherpas pass through his village on climbing expeditions and wonder what it would be like to be on top of a mountain summit. This fascination became a passion when Tamang visited Italy to learn Italian at the age of 14.

“Mountains never left him even in Italy. There, too, he got to see mountains as well as mountain conservation works, which fuelled his dream of becoming a professional climber. He learned to climb while in Italy,” says Tamang’s wife Karuna Lama.

On 5 May 1973, Tamang summited Everest to become the youngest person—at 17 years, six months and 15 days—to set foot on the world’s highest peak. The Guinness World Records duly recognized his feat, which remained unbroken for 28 years until Temba Tsheri Sherpa, another Nepali climber, made a successful ascent of Everest at the age of 16 in 2001.   

Lama says her husband did not set out to climb Everest with the intention of making a record.

“He was simply pursuing his passion. He had the courage and the will to turn his passion into reality,” she says.

Tamang’s love for mountaineering and mountains only grew after the Everest expedition. He was aware of the problems faced by Nepali mountaineers and Sherpas and wanted to help them.

“He wanted to impart better training skills on mountaineers and carry out mountain preservation works in Nepal,” says Nima Nuru Sherpa, the president of Nepal Mountaineering Association. Tamang was one of the founding members of the association and its lifelong advisor.

Besides his contribution to promoting mountaineering and supporting mountaineers in Nepal, Tamang was also generous in other areas of life. He was a helpful and humble person by nature, says his wife Lama. “He always put others first, a quality that was admired by his friends and family alike,” she adds.

Tamang had for long been suffering from cancer and his condition had been steadily deteriorating. He passed away while undergoing treatment at the Nepal Cancer Hospital and Research Center in Harisiddhi, Lalitpur. Tamang is survived by his wife, a son, and a daughter.