The Man Who Helped Put America On Everest | KCUR

The Man Who Helped Put America On Everest

Jul 24, 2013

Credit Kansas City Public Library

When Nawang Gombu reached the top of Mount Everest, he was only 17 years old. Many people talk about the beauty and the majesty of seeing the world beneath your feet. But, his first thought was, “How do I get down?” Film maker and former Kansas City television reporter, Bev Chapman,  who recently completed a documentary on Gombu, shares the story of this extraordinary man.  Nawang's inspiring story begins when he escaped from a Buddhist monastery when he was only 11. Punishments were very strict for children who didn’t excel academically, so Gombu felt he had no choice but to escape. However, what he lacked in academic prowess, he more than made up for in courage and bravura--he escaped the Rongbuk Monastery by going through a toilet.  From there, he began to pick up English from the rush of people that had been coming to Nepal after his uncle, Tenzing Norgay first climbed Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary. In 1963, Nawang Gombu would head to the top of Mount Everest himself with Jim Whittaker, the first American to reach the fabled summit.

His acomplishments earned him a visit to the White House where he meet President John F. Kennedy. However, Gombu would return to Nepal and continued to aid Westerners up the mountain. He reached the summit a second time, becoming the only man to do so for the next 20 years. Gombu died in 2011, but his spirit, determination, and courage all live on in Bev Chapman’s film, Nawang Gumbu: Heart of a Tiger.  It debuts at the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library at 2pm on Sunday, July 28th.