Local climbers bring Mt. Everest to Tampa for "An Evening with Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa", this Thursday

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Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa has reached the summit of Mount Everest thirteen times and was once the record holder for the fastest summit ascent of Mount Everest. Currently in Argentina climbing Mount Aconcagua, one of the seven summits, Lhakpa will be sharing his experiences along with breath taking photos of one of the world's most awe inspiring locations as part of a fundraiser to benefit the Climb for Cancer Foundation and the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. "Lhakpa is one of the super sherpas," said Watts, "these are guys who are record holders and ambassadors for climbing around the world." Originally from Tibet, the Sherpa people came to Nepal over 500 years ago and are physically adapted to survive in high mountain climates. Once largely ignored, it wasn't uncommon for the Everest summit lists to come down without mention of the sherpas who made the climbs possible. Now, however, their importance is widely recognized and it is considered offensive to leave their names off.

It isn't just the summit that draws people to this part of the world. The journey to Everest base camp itself is an amazing experience. A seventeen day journey, the trek into and out of base camp brings trekkers into contact with sights and cultures that can be life changing. Trekkers can expect to see Ama Dablam, a name which translated means "Mothers Necklace" and a place described by Watts as the most beautiful mountain in the world. Throughout the journey, trekkers meet and interact with the Nepali people. "The Nepalis are the most honest people I have ever met," said Watts, "When they ask you how you are they really want to know, don't blow them off." Friendly and good natured, the Nepalis are very proud of their country and enjoy sharing it with foreign guests. Trekkers also spend a day or two acclimatizing in world famous Namche Bazaar. Originally founded by the British as a supply depot, Namche Bazaar has grown into small city of shops, hotels and restaurants with a Saturday morning weekly market that brings in traders from all over the region. What makes Namche Bazaar unique is the fact that it is completely inaccessible by road. "Every brick, every thing there was brought in on someone's back," said Watts. Namche Bazaar also sits as the gateway to the Khumbu Valley and to Everest itself. "Seeing Mount Everest, like seeing Macchu Picchu, grown men will stand there with tears in their eyes," Watts said.

In addition to meeting Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa, attendees to Thursdays event will get to rub elbows with the elite of Tampa's climbing community. A gregarious group of men and women who have the ability to make total strangers feel like close friends, Tampa's climbers tell stories both harrowing and hilarious. They will also be letting people know about the International Explorers Project, an organization of climbers and trekkers who hope to raise awareness of the plight of some of the world's poorest regions through first hand accounts as well as use climbing to help funnel relief to these same areas and the people who live there.

An Evening with Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa is at the Tampa Club- 101 East Kennedy Boulevard on Thursday, March 11, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. $20 minimum donation to benefit the Climb for Cancer Foundation and the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. To RSVP or for more information call 813-832-6669 or e-mail [email protected]

It has been called the most inhospitable place on earth. It is a place so dangerous that over 120 bodies currently remain upon it, unclaimed and unreachable for burial. It is a place so cold and so devoid of life that three quarters of a century after his death, climber George Mallory's body was found almost perfectly preserved despite being exposed to the elements the entire time.

Standing 29,035 feet above sea level, Mount Everest is commonly known as the highest point in the world and remains one of the most dangerous. It is the subject of numerous movies and TV shows, most of which expound upon the aforementioned dangers, and yet, this mountain is so much more. "People flock to shows about Everest on the Discovery Channel expecting to see a train wreck," said Leon Watts, owner of Adventure Outfitters in Tampa, "we don't climb for a train wreck, we do it because it is such a fantastic, wonderful and beautiful thing." It is this beauty and this wonder that Adventure Outfitters, Vertical Ventures and Tampa Bay Outfitters as well as others in the Tampa climbing community hope to share this Thursday when they host "An Evening with Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa" at The Tampa Club.

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