As Nepal celebrates the 60-year “Diamond Jubilee” of the first successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 this week, Tashi Sherpa is celebrating an anniversary of his own.
Ten years ago, he was in the import-export business, when, as he was walking down the street in Manhattan, a magazine cover honoring Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Staring back at him from the cover was his uncle, Ang Gyalzen Sherpa, whom Tashi soon learned had been one of the porters on the historic expedition. Soon after, Sherpa Adventure Gear was born.
“When I started this brand it was a tribute to all the unsung heroes of Everest, the ones who have sacrificed years and their lives making it easier for people to climb and supporting them,” Tashi said. “Essentially, we are the story.”
The word "Sherpa" has become synonymous with the word "guide" or "porter" on Mt. Everest, though it refers to an Indo-Tibetan ethnic group numbering around 150,000 in Nepal.
Today, Sherpa Adventure Gear is Nepal's own answer to world famous mountaineering apparel brands like Patagonia and The North Face. And even in Kathmandu, the brand competes successfully against the Chinese knockoffs sold in the backpacker ghetto of Thamel – where a Gore-Tex shell with The North Face label costs less than a third of Tashi's made-in-Nepal originals.
“Made in Nepal – because we make 80 percent of our production in Nepal – has been one of our big assets,” said Tashi. “People love the fact that we make our stuff in Nepal. We're very original, we're very authentic.”