He was a legend of the Khumbu, the region around Mount Everest. Pasang Lama Sherpa, probably better known to most as Lama Seru, died yesterday in Namche Bazaar. Information about his age varied – at the time of his birth, no birth lists were kept in the region around Mount Everest. But Lama Seru is believed to have been in his mid-80s.
Anyone who has hiked from Namche Bazaar, the main village of the Khumbu, to Tengboche Monastery or on to Everest Base Camp in the past four decades is likely to have encountered Lama Seru. Or at least passed his table, where his blue padlocked donation box stood, with a list next to it for donors to sign.
Kilometers of trails secured
Since 1984 – at a time when trekking tourism in Nepal was still in its infancy – Lama Seru had been repairing the trekking trails in the region. At the age of 18, he had started working as a porter. He was annoyed by the desolate condition of the trails and decided to make them less dangerous for porters like himself by widening them and, where necessary, also covering them with stones and stabilizing them. In the beginning he worked alone, later together with his wife Lakpa Yangji and other helpers, at first near his then residence Dingboche at 4,410 meters, later also on other kilometer-long sections of the legendary trekking trail.
“Dear visitors, this man Pasang Lama Sherpa has been doing social work to build, mend and maintain the main trail to Everest Base Camp with high spirit and solemn determination,” read a blue sign next to his blue box. “Visitors are requested to make a small donation to support and encourage this devoted man to continue his sacred work, so that all the inhabitants and visitors in this area will be befitted on the days ahead.”
Six years ago, the Nepalese newspaper “MyRepublika” awarded Lama Seru the “Nagarik Nayak” award for his selfless commitment in the Khumbu. It is given to everyday heroes, ordinary people who have made a special contribution to Nepalese society. When asking passers-by for donations, Pasang Lama Sherpa said: “It’s not for me, it’s for you.” Generations of trekkers owe him a debt of gratitude.