In April 2019, in the small town of Namche in Nepal, Pattie Moon listened to the story of Kanchha Sherpa. Kanchha is the last living member of the first summit of Mount Everest in 1953, and Moon was interviewing him for his book “Tough & Cheerful: The Life and Times of Kanchha Sherpa, Last Living Member from the First Ascent of Mount Everest”.
It was a member of Kanchha’s extended family who asked Moon to write the book, she recalls, as they hiked a steep section of trail in the Langtang region of the Himalayas.
“I could barely breathe so I just said ‘yes’,” Moon said.
The following year, Moon returned to Nepal where she stayed with Kanchha for three days, learning her story. Listening, she realized that it was not just about Kanchha, but Nepal and its challenges, its changes and how the country has been redefined since that first summit.
“There is a lot more to its history than Everest,” she said. “It was a defining moment in his life, but his history and the history of his country are reflected in reality.”
Kanchha grew up in a remote valley with nothing – his family struggled to find enough food, they went barefoot and had no knowledge of a world beyond. But the summit of Mount Everest – known as Chomolungma in Kanchha – changed not only his life, but also the trajectory of his country.
“What struck me the most is that he doesn’t carry any anger, no judgment. He’s at peace. He’s funny, he laughs a lot and he’s very open with his heart,” Moon said. “I think the biggest lesson is that no matter how difficult your life is or what circumstances you’ve grown up under, there is a chance not only to do something on your own, but also to see the world in it. a bigger picture and be at peace with yourself. “
Moon, who has been fascinated by Nepal for years, made her first trip there in 2009. Since then, she has returned there almost every year before the pandemic. It was on her first trip that she sprained her ankle and had to be on horseback for the duration of the treks.
“I had Sherpas by my side in case I needed anything,” she said. “And I just asked them a million questions because I wanted to know everything. It deepened my respect and knowledge of the Sherpa community. And although I didn’t go to Nepal expecting to fall, I actually fell in love with the Sherpas.
Back home, Moon read all the books she could find on the Sherpas, Nepal and their culture. Soon after, she was appointed Program Director of the Sherpa Education Project, a nonprofit organization based in Steamboat Springs that helps support Sherpa communities in the Solukhumbu region of Nepal. The organization strives to provide educational opportunities for children – especially girls – whose parents cannot afford school fees, books, uniforms and more.
Returning to Nepal each year, Moon has become anchored in the community, befriends the Sherpas and their families and travels with Pemba, his manager and translator.
“I found another house,” she says. “It has been my greatest honor, and perhaps a highlight of my life, to have been commissioned to write this book. I am honored to be able to participate in the recording of history and also offer a glimpse into the future of this wonderful country. “
In collaboration with Bud Werner Memorial Library and Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, Moon will be giving a free lecture on his book in Library Hall on December 9. She will also host a question-and-answer session with the audience. Copies of the book “Tough & Cheerful” will be available for sale and for signing on Off the Beaten Path. Moon donates all proceeds from the book to the Sherpa Education Project.
Sophie Dingle is a Steamboat Pilot & Today collaborator. She can be contacted via the editor.