Ang Tshering Lama: Volunteer Mountaineering Ranger on Denali

Ang Tsher­ing Lama is a Nepalese moun­tain guide who has climbed many of the coun­try’s high­est moun­tains. In 2011, Ang spent a month vol­un­teer­ing as a moun­taineer­ing ranger on Denali through the unique Sher­pa Exchange Pro­gram through the US Nation­al Park Sys­tem. Through the pro­gram, Ang learned how the NPS oper­ates com­pared to the Khum­bu Climb­ing Cen­ter, as well as learn­ing to appre­ci­ate places like Denali.

Ali­son Hud­son: When did you start work­ing in the moun­tains?
Ang Tsher­ing Lama: I start­ed twen­ty years ago, when I was 14 years old. I was an assis­tant helper on school hol­i­days, most­ly as a trans­la­tor. I worked most­ly for Aus­tralian com­pa­nies, like World Expe­di­tions. I’ve owned my own busi­ness (Ang’s Himalayan Adven­tures) since 2008.

AH: How did you get involved with the Nation­al Park Ser­vice?
ATL: I found out about it through the Khum­bu Climb­ing Cen­ter. NPS Ranger Bran­don Lath­am, start­ed the pro­gram as an exchange. In 2011, I vol­un­teered on Denali for one month doing Search and Res­cue. In 2009 I was in Grand Teton Nation­al Park with some­one I met through KCC and in 2010 I was on Rainier. Nei­ther of those were the vol­un­teer pro­gram, though.

Summit Ridge  Photo courtesy NPSAH: Tell me more about the Khum­bu Climb­ing Cen­ter.
ATL: Khum­bu Climb­ing Cen­ter is a pro­gram in Nepal for local guides to learn moun­taineer­ing and climb­ing skills. It’s run by the Alex Lowe Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion. I went first in 2007 as an advanced stu­dent. I have taught there since 2008. I like the pro­gram because it’s a way to share knowl­edge and it’s inex­pen­sive because all of the instruc­tors volunteer.

AH: Did you have any mem­o­rable of res­cues on Denali?
ATL: I was involved with five or six res­cues; one night we had to help four peo­ple. The worst was one guy who died near the upper camp. When when we arrived, we had to tem­porar­i­ly bury him because the weath­er was bad. The next day we unburied him and sent the body down in helicopter.

AH: What was the most valu­able skill you learned on Denali?
ATL: Last year I had to recov­er the body of a Sher­pa guide. He died at 5800 meters on a peak in Nepal. That was like Denali. I also learned to keep the moun­tain clean and I share that knowl­edge with peo­ple back in Nepal. 

AH: How is work­ing on a moun­tain in Amer­i­ca dif­fer­ent from guid­ing in Nepal?
ATL: It depends on the angle. Back home, I’m the guide, while here I’m a Search and Res­cue Ranger. There are dif­fer­ent aspects of work­ing styles. In Amer­i­ca, there is more free­dom. I just check on the moun­tains and make sure every­one is okay. Back home, when I work on the moun­tain, it’s like baby-sit­ting. I have much more respon­si­bil­i­ty. I have respon­si­bil­i­ty for sav­ing lives out in Amer­i­ca, but you don’t have to wor­ry all the time about babysit­ting clients or about them get­ting sick.

favorite peak in NepalAH: What is your favorite peak in Nepal?
ATL: There are so many I want to climb, I don’t have one favorite. I’m look­ing for new ascents. I’m always look­ing for small­er moun­tains. There are a few I want to climb on my own in the West­ern part of Nepal, but get­ting there is dif­fi­cult. For new peo­ple who want to get the feel of moun­taineer­ing, I would rec­om­mend Lobuche East. It’s much more fun. The high­est, Mera Peak, is fun as well.

AH: What did you think of Denali?
ATL: It has a dif­fer­ent taste of climb­ing. From the base camp to the sum­mit is high­er than climb­ing Ever­estst from its base camp to sum­mit. Denali is a good chal­lenge, the weath­er could be chal­leng­ing some­times. Over­all, it’s a fun peak, it’s a fun moun­tain to climb.