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Sea to Sky climbers mourn sherpa's death in Everest avalanche

Mountain guides forged a relationship with Then Dorjee of Nepal



The death of a sherpa at the base of Mount Everest is impacting people on this side of the world.

Then Dorjee worked with Sea to Sky residents John Furneaux and Brian Jones during their climbing expeditions on Mount Everest. Dorjee was one of 16 sherpas killed in an avalanche on April 18 near the Everest Base Camp.

"Then Dorjee worked on all of our expeditions on Everest as an altitude sherpa guide," said Jones from his home in Squamish, 10 days after Dorjee's death.

Jones is the owner of Canada West Mountain School (CWMS). He said Furneaux has worked with Dorjee a number of times and Jones used Dorjee's services on two separate Everest trips.

"I have met his sister who runs the tea house down in the valley and I've met his mother and gone to their house and had tea with his mother," said Jones. "She was a very wonderful lady."

Jones learned the news from Dorjee's boss soon after the tragedy. The news caused Jones to pause and reflect on his own mountain adventures and why he climbs. He said Dorjee paid a huge price.

"Then Dorjee was born and raised underneath Mount Everest, quite literally, and raised his family there," said Jones. "His whole livelihood and his whole life was spent there. He worked first as a porter then as a yak herder. He owned yaks and he ran yaks for many expeditions. Then he worked as a cook's helper, then as a cook and worked his way up the ladder quite quickly. He was very strong, a very bright young man, but he loved climbing.

"He was an amazing guy."

Dorjee introduced him to music by teaching him to play a homemade three-string instrument one night. The evening is one of Jones' most treasured memories of the sherpa. He spent the evening hanging out with Dorjee and several of his friends staying up late making music and drinking tea.

"It was fun," said Jones. "It wasn't anything more than a bunch of guys getting together, singing songs and making some music and just really enjoying each other's company."

Furneaux has been to the summit of Everest twice. He led three separate expeditions up the mountain while Jones has been to the top of the world's tallest mountain peak once. The pair scaled up Everest together in 2008 and Furneaux went back up in 2010. Furneaux guided another group to the peak in 2011, but a number of factors prevented him from reaching the summit that year. Dorjee was a part of all those expeditions with Jones, Furneaux and their clients.

Jones plans to guide a small group of CWMS clients this fall on an expedition to Ama Dablam, a peak near Everest that reaches up 6,812 metres (22,350 feet) in the Khumbu region of the Himalayas. The trip will take the group right above Dorjee's house. Dorjee and Jones were planning that expedition together.

"We are in the background stages of putting together a 2015 Everest trip," said Jones. Dorjee would have been involved in that trip as well.

More than 250 people have died climbing Mount Everest. Just halfway through the year, 2014 is the deadliest in Everest's history, beating out 1996 when eight foreign climbers died on the mountain.