Sherpa Files, December, 1996
I got the call at High Mountain Rendezvous on Friday, Sept. 27th, 1996 from the senior editor of Climbing Magazine that my friend, Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa, had been killed in an avalanche somewhere on Mt. Everest. There were no details on how or where, just that he was dead. Before hanging up the editor asked in a matter of fact tone, “Oh, since you’re the one who knew him, could you write a brief epitaph? Oh yeah, and could you fax it to us by Monday? Thanks. I’m real sorry.”
I sat down, stared up at my boss, and burst into tears. In the morning I left for Hidden Lake Peak with no clue how I would say goodbye to Lopsang. I knew that with all the recent hoopla over the May 10th tragedy his death would most likely register back page news. Tragically, the media and viewing public’s memory of him would be the slandered versions they read about in Outside magazine or fictitious versions they saw on ABC, NBC, and CNN specials. As it stood, no one had gotten the facts straight or told the whole story.
The next day, as I sat on a rock trying to write about the loss of an irreplaceable light in my life, I was overwhelmed with the fact that I alone knew the truth about Lopsang’s ordeal on Everest. Everybody who had been up there and knew the score was dead.
“Some people enter your life like a divine light, giving inspiration, hope, and faith. Lopsang was one of those rare individuals. His giggly, gold-toothed laughter, his caring eyes, sweet voice, and gentle way with my children – I can’t replace any of that.… Lopsang was all that was good in people: truthful, heroic, generous, comical, gentle, and outrageous. I felt safe next to him, ready to take on the world. Now he’s gone…”