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Young Tibetans trained to be mountaineering guide
Updated: 2011-03-29 09:50
Young Tibetans trained to be mountaineering guide
Students have rock climbing training at Tibet Mountaineering Guide School in Lhasa, capital of Southwest China's Tibet autonomous region, March 25, 2011. [Photo/Xinhua]

Young Tibetans trained to be mountaineering guide

Students have rock climbing training at Tibet Mountaineering Guide School in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet autonomous region, March 25, 2011.


A group of young Tibetans are being trained to challenge the domination of Nepal's legendary Sherpa people in the Himalayan mountain guide industry.

Before coming to the Tibet Mountaineering Guide School in Lhasa in August of 2010, Yudan Lunzhu, 17 years old, has never been to anywhere other than his hometown. Now he is the youngest student of the first grade. When asked why he chose to study mountaineering, he said with a shy smile, "I can wear good sportswear for free. It is cool." Different from this matter-of-fact answer, 21-year-old Zhamdul, the monitor of the second grade, said that he was determined to be a mountaineering guide at the age of 12. "The love for the mountain is in my blood." he said assuredly.

Yudan Lunzhu and Zhamdul are all from Tingri County, whose homes are 200 kilometers away from each other, which, in their sense, was "very close". There are altogether 44 students now studying at the Tibet Mountaineering Guide School. Like Yudan and Zhamdul, all the others spent their childhood at the foot of Mt. Qomolongma, at an altitude of 4800 meters and above. With at least a middle-school diploma, they must pass both cultural and physical examinations to enter the mountaineering guide school. In the year when Zhamdul was admitted, 10 students out of 35 were chosen in his hometown. Living in the remote rural areas with harsh natural conditions, all their families are farmers and herdmen depending on land. "Everyone in our county knows the guide school." Yudan said, "Many thought it was a good opportunity to go outside. Besides, the education is completely free."

It takes a whole day for Zhamdul and Yudan to come to Lhasa from home, where they will complete a three-year program to become mountain guide. Besides Tibetan, they are taught to read and write in Chinese and English. They learn all facets of mountain climbing, rock climbing and ice climbing, rope skills, safety, rescue, emergency treatment, weather and geography, logistics and camp management. They also learn high-altitude cooking techniques for use in base camps. Besides, they receive free dormitory shared by five to six roomates, free board better than food at home, as well as good-quality clothing and equipment sponsored by famous company. "I like studying Chinese most, and rock climbing is a lot of fun too." Zhamdul said. The only problem for Zhamdul is that having a girlfriend is not permitted. "One should not smoke, drink alcohol and have girlfriend at school, otherwise you will be kicked out." He said.

Founded in 1999 in Lhasa, the school has turned out around 150 Tibetan graduate guides skilled in state-of-the-art mountain climbing techniques. With fund from government and sponsor from private companies like Ozark outdoor gear company, the school was enlarged to its present site in 2004, which covers an area of 15,000 square meters, offering modern teaching facilities, dormitories and rock climbing training ground. After graduating, the young men will work for the Tibet Himalaya Expedition Co, the school's sister company, with an average monthly salary of 2,000 yuan ($305). High-altitude guides and kitchen staff trained by the school are also hired by Chinese and Western expeditions. According to Cering Samdrub, the school's executive vice principal, their graduates have provided mountain guide services to climbers from Japan, the United States, Spain, etc. "For over an hundred years, the Sherpa people of Nepal are dominating the mountain guide industry in Himalaya, but now we are catching up. Previously we emphasized more on the physical capability of our graduates, but now while still training hard on their climbing techniques, we focus more on their language skills and the ability to cooperate with others." said Cering Samdrub, "an eligible mountain guide must be an all-rounder."

Though there is still one year ahead before graduation, Zhamdul is eager to think about the future. "I wish I could make a trip to Beijing someday. I heard it is very beautiful. But nowhere is better than my home. I cannot wait any longer to introduce the stunning beauty of the snowy mountains to more people, especially foreign climbers."

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