Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa
Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa (ca. 1971-73 – September 25, 1996) was a Sherpa mountaineering guide, climber and porter, best known for his work as the climbing Sirdar for Scott Fischer's Mountain Madness expedition to Everest in Spring 1996, when a freak storm led to the deaths of eight climbers from several expeditions, considered one of the worst disasters in the history of Everest mountaineering. Notwithstanding controversy over his actions during that expedition, Lopsang was well-regarded in the mountaineering community, having summited Everest four times. Lopsang was killed in an avalanche in September 1996, while again on an expedition to climb Everest for what would have been a fifth ascent.
Beyond his work in the course of the ill-fated Spring 1996 Everest expedition, Lopsang was a respected porter and guide with extensive Himalayan mountaineering experience, including:
- Summit, Mount Everest with Nepali Women's expedition, Spring 1993
- Summit, Cho Oyu with Japanese expedition, Fall 1993
- Camp 4, Mount Everest, Japanese expedition, Winter 1993
- Summit, Mount Everest, Sagarmatha Environmental expedition, Spring 1994
- Summit, Mount Everest, New Zealand expedition, Spring 1995, led by Rob Hall
- Summit, Broad Peak, Scott Fischer party, Summer 1995
- Summit, Mount Everest, Scott Fischer party, Spring 1996 (3 hours on the summit)
Lopsang reached the summit of Everest four times in four years, all without supplementary oxygen. During his career, Lopsang had worked as a climber and guide for both Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, two expedition leaders who ultimately died on Everest in the course of the May 10, 1996 tragedy.
Spring 1996 Everest disaster
By 1996, Lopsang had developed a reputation as a strong climber and capable guide, in part by his experience in helping to guide several successful expeditions with Rob Hall, a significant Himalayan expedition leader. Scott Fischer, another recognised Himalayan expedition leader, had established a new venture, Mountain Madness, and was planning a guided commercial expedition to Everest for spring 1996. Fischer, familiar with Lopsang's work and achievements, hired Lopsang to lead sherpas and assist clients as Sirdar for the Everest expedition.
During the spring and fall 1996 Everest climbing seasons, fifteen climbers died on the mountain, making it the deadliest single year in Everest history. Eight of them died on 11 May alone. The disaster gained wide publicity and raised questions about the commercialisation of Everest.
Journalist Jon Krakauer, on assignment from Outside magazine, was a member of one of the affected expeditions, and afterwards published the bestseller Into Thin Air, which related his experience. Anatoli Boukreev, a guide for Fischer's expedition whose actions were criticized somewhat by Krakauer, co-authored a rebuttal book called The Climb. The dispute sparked a debate within the climbing community as to the proper role of climbing guides on Everest, centering on the actions of the climbers and guides from the summit parties from these two expeditions, who climbed together during the final and fateful summit push.
In the course of this controversy, Lopsang's actions during that summit climb, as that of others, came under some degree of scrutiny. Working as a guide for Scott Fischer's Mountain Madness expedition, on May 10 Lopsang climbed to the summit without using supplemental oxygen, a practice that was criticised by Krakauer as unusual and unadvised for a climbing guide (Boukreev had also climbed that day without using supplemental oxygen). Lopsang also acknowledged that at times during the expedition, including the day before the summit climb, he had carried an especially large load of equipment, including "30 pounds of other member's personal gear", and that at times he had closely assisted Sandy Pittman (a journalist member of the expedition reporting for NBC by email dispatches sent via satellite telephone and computer), using a "short rope" technique†. Lopsang later explained that he himself made such decisions, so as to provide assistance to any team member "who was having trouble. This was to ensure that all group members would have a good chance of making the summit." Lopsang acknowledged that on the day of this fateful summit push, he suffered from vomiting and fatigue, which Krakauer had noted as symptoms of overexertion; but Lopsang explained "I have been over 8,000 meters many times, each time I vomit. It is just something I do. It means nothing. I have done it on all successful expeditions, when leading or following. I did it at camp I, II, etc. For me, it has nothing to do with altitude sickness."
Late in the day of May 10, as bad weather closed in, Scott Fischer reached Lopsang, who was waiting for him near the summit. Fischer and Lopsang started their descent in bad weather, as Rob Hall and Doug Hansen ascended toward the summit. Lopsang sent Fischer down the mountain, and waited for Hall and Hansen to complete the summit. Lopsang reported that after ensuring that Hall and Hansen had safely summited and started their descent, he quickly descended to reach Fischer, apparently then in some difficulty. Lopsang then "physically dragged" an ill Fischer from the South Summit "until he could go no further", and waited together with him and Makalu Gau (a climber from another expedition also caught in the storm) for several hours, until Fischer finally urged Lopsang to leave and descend alone. Gau ultimately was rescued by another party of sherpa guides; Fischer apparently moved no further before he died high on Everest.
Lopsang's uncle, Ngawang Topche Sherpa, also working on the 1996 Mountain Madness expedition, fell ill and was evacuated by helicopter from Everest just prior to the fateful summit bid, suffering from a severe case of high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). Hospitalised, Ngawang remained incapacitated in Kathmandu, never recovered, and eventually died on June 6. 
September 1996 expedition
In the fall of 1996, Lopsang returned to Everest as a guide, working for a Japanese expedition. On September 25, 1996, a large avalanche erupted during the ascent on the southeast ridge route in the area between Camp III at the top of the Lhotse face, and Camp IV at the South Col, the starting point for the final summit push. The avalanche killed Lopsang; sherpa guide Dawa; and a French climber, Yves Bouchon.
Lopsang came from Beding, Nepal. He was married, with a child two months old, at the time of his death.
^† "Short-roping" is a technique in which one climber assists another (usually done to descend to safety with a climber in distress) using a type of lanyard, or literally a "short rope", connecting the two. In this case, "short-roping" was used to assist a healthy, albeit a weaker, client by pulling the climber up the mountain during the final ascent. In his book Into Thin Air, Krakauer was extremely critical of the use of this technique in such circumstances and he quoted guide Neal Beidleman's assessment of the technique as "looking awkward and quite dangerous" for both climbers involved.
- Jurgalski, Eberhard. "Almanac, 05 May". 8000ers.com Database. Retrieved 5 May 2010.. Sources give this birthdate; however, Lopsang published a letter to Outside Magazine only weeks before his death in which he asserted that he was then 23 years old: "What Really Happened In The Thin Air". mountainzone.com. Retrieved 19 April 2010.
- "Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa Killed on Mount Everest". MountainZone.com. Retrieved April 9, 2010.
- O'Brien, Richard; Lidz, Franz, eds. (1996-10-14). "Scorecard October 14, 1996: Bungled Alomar Decision...Notre Dame Shakes Up Women's Soccer...Death of a Sherpa...Sports Mutual Fund...A Yankee Belle?...Land-Speed-Record Run Slowed". Sports Illustrated 85 (16). Retrieved 2011-10-07. More than one of
- "What Really Happened In The Thin Air: Climbers Who Were There Discuss the Events of May 10, 1996". mountainzone.com. Retrieved 19 April 2010.
- "Lopsang Sherpa, two others killed on Everest". Summit Journal 1996. Outside Online. 1996. Archived from the original on 24 July 2010.
- Boukreev, Anatoli; Wylie, Linda (2002), Above the Clouds: The Diaries of a High Altitude Mountaineer, p. 146, ISBN 0-312-29137-X
- "Fatalities - Everest". 8000ers.com – The site for all information about the mountains above 8000 metres and for many mountains below!. 28 December 2009. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
- "Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa killed in Everest avalanche, September 27, 1996". MountainZone.com. 1996-09-25. Retrieved 2011-10-07.
- Krakauer, Jon (1997). Into Thin Air. New York: Random House. p. 167. ISBN 0-679-45752-6.