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Nawang Gombu (Nepali: नवांग गोम्बु; May 1, 1936 – April 24, 2011) was an Indian and Nepali mountaineer of Nepalese Sherpa origin.
Gombu was born in Khumbu, Nepal, as did many of his relatives, including his uncle Tenzing Norgay. He was the youngest Sherpa to reach 26,000 ft. In 1964, he became the first Nepalis and Indian citizen and the third man in the world to summit Nanda Devi (24,645 ft). In 1965, he became the first man in the world to have climbed Mount Everest twice—a record that would remain unbroken for almost 20 years.
Gombu was born in the Khumbu, north-east of Nepal. His early life was marked by the complexities of his parents’ marriage. His father, Nawang, was a monk, the younger brother of the local feudal landowner. His mother, Tenzing’s beloved older sister, was Lhamu Khipa, a nun from a family of serfs. The two eloped, causing a scandal, and for a time they lived in Khumbu, Nepal.
As a young boy, Gombu was sent to Tibet to become a monk at Rongbuk Monastery, an hour’s walk below what is now Everest base camp. Gombu’s grandmother was a cousin of the head lama, Trulshik Rinpoche, but the connection offered him no protection from the brutal punishment often meted out to novices who failed in their studies.
After a year, Gombu fled with a friend, crossing the Nangpa La into Khumbu, where the first western visitors were beginning to explore the southern approaches to Everest.
He was the first man in the world to climb Everest twice with the Indian Expedition and American. No small feat as the record was not broken for a very long time. He climbed Mount Rainier numerous times and traveled extensively.
Nawang Gombu lived in Darjeeling and spent his life at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute retiring as the Adviser there. He had four children and a wife Sita who lives in Darjeeling.
Honours and awards
Gombu attended reunions of climbs during the 1950s and 1960s as part of the 1963 Everest Expedition Celebrations. In 2006, he was awarded the Tenzing Norgay Lifetime Achievement Award in the field of Indian mountaineering by President APJ Abdul Kalam.
Gombu dedicated his later life to the Sherpa community, raising funds and being President of the Sherpa Buddhist Association for the past few years.