Nawang Gombu: Heart of a Tiger| 46mins
Director: Mele Mason | Producer: Mele Mason/Bev Chapman
Focus Years: 2012 | Country: United States
Nawang Gombu first exhibited the determination that would take him to the top of the world when he was a little boy. He escaped from a Buddhist monastery in Tibet when he was only 11 years old. In a journey of cinematic proportions, he and a friend plotted their break, left under cover of darkness and crossed the 19,000-foot Nangpa La to Nepal with little more than the clothes on their back.
As he ran from the harsh conditions of monastic life, he raced towards the adventure of a life as a mountain climberâ€”a decision that would change everything for a poor Sherpa child.
The nephew of Tenzing Norgay, he was the youngest Sherpa climber on the 1953 Everest expedition carrying supplies above 25,000 feet. He went on to become the first man in the world to summit Everest twice. He stood on the highest point on the planet with Jim Whittaker on the American expedition in 1963 and again on the first successful Indian expedition in 1965. But 'firsts' are only a small part of what makes this man's story extraordinary.
A deeply spiritual man all his life, he turned his devotion in to help his family and others achieve what had been so hard for him to accomplish. Standing on the shoulders of his famous uncle, he helped lift the status of Sherpas to that of world-class climbers.
Gombu was a humble, hard-working man, and as a result, not many people outside India are aware of his accomplishments.
Tom Hornbein, (first summit of Everest-West Ridge '63) encouraged us to find out if Gombu had any 'warts'. What we've discovered is he had the usual human shortcomings, but lived an exemplary life trying to help others.
His children tell us they served as their father's secretary when they were very young, writing dozens of letters of introduction for people who needed jobs, children who required a recommendation to enter a better school and widows seeking support for their Sherpa families after a loved one died on a mountain.
His contributions to alpine climbing instruction launched a new, safer style of mountaineering, inspiring young Indian men and women to try a sport that wasn't very popular in their country.
His children say he believed that education was the only way to lift a culture out of poverty. As a result, he took dangerous mountain climbing assignments and was constantly working part-time jobs to insure they attended the best schools and colleges. Simply put, this is a man who was determined to use his fame for good.