Pemba Tsering Sherpa of JOURNEYS 1952-2009

Posted June 8th, 2009 by admin. Comments Off on Pemba Tsering Sherpa of JOURNEYS 1952-2009.

With profound sadness, we share the news that Pemba Tsering Sherpa passed away on May 14, 2009. He left peacefully in full possession of his senses, charisma, gentleness, compassion and gratitude for an extraordinary life. In Kathmandu, after three months of battling liver cancer, surrounded by family and friends, he closed his eyes for the last time just after a Sherpa lama offered him instructions for negotiating his path to the next life.

Pemba co-founded JOURNEYS with us in 1978. He was our dear friend and our inspiration. During the more than thirty years of our partnership, he opened his home and his heart to many hundreds of JOURNEYS travelers. We are grateful for the opportunity to share his story.

We offer this blog to Pemba’s many friends as a way of remembering  and sharing the events of his life as they influenced our own. We invite your comments and reflections here or send your thoughts and photos to and we will post them for you.  You can scroll below to see all blog entries in chronological order or you can click on the categories on the side bar.  To view complete entries you may need to click on the entries’ title lines.

With gratitude for your presence in our lives and Pemba’s,

Will and Joan Weber

Pemba Tsering Sherpa Memorial

Posted June 8th, 2009 by admin. Comments Off on Pemba Tsering Sherpa Memorial.

In Pemba’s memory we have established the Pemba Tsering Sherpa Memorial Fund as a part of the non-profit 501(c)3 Earth Preservation Fund. The Pemba Fund will have the dual goals of supporting re-forestation efforts and providing educational sponsorship for needy children. Contributions can be made by check or credit card. Make checks payable to The Earth Preservation Fund.  Call the JOURNEYS office (1-800-255-8735) if you wish to use your credit card. We will keep you updated on the status of the fund and the programs that are being supported. Thank you.

End of Mourning Period by Nawang Sherpa

Posted June 8th, 2009 by admin. Comments Off on End of Mourning Period by Nawang Sherpa.

It is hard to believe its been over 25 days since Papa passed away.

We had a big ceremony for his 3rd week, that was last Thursday in Sherpa Gomba in Bouddha and like always everything was perfect. We had over 600 people in attendance and over 150 of our close relatives and friends to help with the event. We had over 60 monks praying for Papa. In Sherpa culture it is said that the soul of the deceased stays around for the first 21 days. All the ceremonies and prayers we perform during those days will all help the deceased during his afterlife. Besides that in Tibetan Buddism this entire month starting Buddhas birthday is considered to be very holy so everything we do multiplies a hundred times, so that has been a great relief for Mama. As you know she is a true beleiver in our religion.

And about this month being eventful, it has indeed been life altering for all of us, but like Papa used to say everything happens for a reason and there is always something positive in the worst of the situations. No one will ever be able to fill his shoes but his passing away has definately inspired me to be a better human being and encouraged me to be as good as him if not better in everything he did.


Hi there, I am Nawang Sherpa, Pemba Sherpa’s younger son. I would like to thank everyone very much for the kind words and wishes. I really appreciate the support and your prayers for my family at a time like this.

I would like to fill you in on some details regarding Papa’s final days and his funeral. He was a man of great strength and determination and had the will and fight to live until the end. He actually even in his death surprised the doctor by living longer than they said. I was alongside him at the end, he passed away very peacefully right after the monk read him instructions for the afterlife which again surprised everyone because the instruction which is read as a prayer is very long and it almost seemed like he was waiting for that to finish so he could depart from this world.

Papas funeral ended in Syambhu (Monkey Temple) where he was cremated. It was held on the 18th which was on Monday. There were a lot of people present, it was a beautiful day, the ceremony was perfectly executed by the monks and the cremation, which was done the traditional way with firewood took about 4 hours.

It has been a week already since Papa passed away and we are having a ceremony done today. We have all passed through the mourning phase. Now it is all about remembering Papa and celebrating his life with all the stories and adventures from his friends and all the people who knew him. All that has been a wonderful experience.

Thank you very much again for taking the time to write and sharing your experiences and views of Papa. I and my wife will be taking care of Journeys after we return from Toronto (Canada) in the next couple of months. If (or rather when) you come to Nepal we shall definitely chat about Papa, about life, about basically everything. Take care and good luck…

Nawang Sherpa

Honoring the Life of Pemba Tsering Sherpa

Posted June 5th, 2009 by admin. Comments (4).

Pemba and  the Founding of  JOURNEYS
Our first acquaintance with Pemba on May 1, 1978, was the founding event of JOURNEYS. Just days before our meeting he was buried and nearly killed in an avalanche while assisting a high altitude climbing expedition in western Nepal. We had just arrived in Kathmandu with a trekking group for what we expected to be a one-time return visit to the country where Will had been a Peace Corps Volunteer and Joan an English language teacher. The leader we’d expected for our expedition was nowhere to be found. Will went searching for a replacement in the places in Kathmandu where mountaineers congregate and came upon a rapt group of climbing Sherpas in a crowded apartment listening to Pemba tell his tale of terror and near death. Will was impressed with Pemba’s manner and intelligence, and invited him to join our trek as sirdar (head guide). After surviving his ordeal, Pemba felt that a change of direction in his mountaineering career was appropriate. Pemba accepted and offered to be our cook as well. A relationship took hold during our 25 days on the trail, and so did a dream: We wondered if we might continue working together. We wondered if we could offer an alternative to large-group tourism, something more personal, more charitable, more locally inspired. We decided to start sister companies in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Kathmandu. And so began our 31 years of intertwined history. Pemba became our friend, our partner and our brother. He cared for many hundreds of our clients, and in the late 1990’s he was honored by his peers when he was elected president of TAAN, the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal.

Pemba’s Early Life
Pemba’s birthdate in the small Sherpa town of Thame on a trade route to Tibet and not far from Mt. Everest was unrecorded. Pemba’s father died before he was born and at about  the age of 7, Pemba witnessed the death of his mother who fell down a steep slope while gathering fire wood.  He then lived with his teen-aged sisters in deep poverty. with little food. He joined his first mountaineering expedition at age 12. He became a “kitchen boy” who could scamper quickly between camps to prepare food in advance of arriving mountaineers. His potential was noted by a Japanese leader who arranged for him to travel to Japan to learn cooking and language while working in a ski resort, providing him with ever more impressive credentials. He worked for climbing expeditions from many different countries, making good friendships with other climbing Sherpas and eventually meeting and marrying Anchi, the daughter of a prominent Sherpa family from Namche Bazar.

Pemba as Teacher
Pemba’s energy and optimism were boundless. He continually surprised us with new and creative schemes, facing the impossible with doggedness and creativity. He knew that you had to fail sometimes in order to win at all.  He was an expert in applied Buddhism. He was deeply religious, though he had minimal schooling and no formal religious instruction. Kindness, compassion, and generosity were his natural gifts.  He advised us on how to work with challenging people. He reminded us that the secrets of well-being are independent of material goods, wealth or formal education. In caste-conscious Nepal, the JOURNEYS office was a place where Nepalese of all backgrounds worked together without predjudicial concern.  In slow times, Pemba supported his staff as best he could, and any staff member’s health or family problems were his, too.  He believed all gifts of a sincere heart would eventually be returned in kind. As a true believer in karma, re-incarnation and respect for all living things, Pemba translated Buddhist theory into selfless action. In the time we knew him, he grew from knowing few words in English to communicating deeply moving insights which supplemented our graduate educations. We will continually strive to live the lessons he taught.

Pemba’s Legacy
Pemba visited the United States many times, spending several summers with us in Ann Arbor and often visiting clients around the USA. He remembered and cherished every traveler, every group, every trek and everyone who befriended him in this country. Even in his final days, he amazed those at his bedside by recalling all the names in the photos and messages he received. Your friendships were his gifts. Pemba achieved the central goal of his life when he and Anchi were able to provide a US college education for each of their children – sons Pemba and Nawang and daughter Dawa. Pemba Jr. and Dawa live in Sonoma, California, and operate Taste of Himalaya, a restaurant started by the family. They’ll be opening a new restaurant soon in Sausalito. Nawang and his wife Wongmu, the daughter of a Nepalese Tibetan family, are settling in Kathmandu after living in Toronto, Canada. Nawang will be taking over responsibilities for JOURNEYS-NEPAL, bringing with him not only the education he received with his business degree but also impressive sensitivity and intelligence. These young adults understand their father’s legacy and they are determined to build upon it. If you wish to share your sentiments or  thoughts with Pemba’s wife and children, Pemba Jr., Nawang and Dawa, you can post here or send an email message to

Ongoing Tributes
Pemba would have reminded us that great pleasures can follow great losses. Life, human and otherwise, is not linear or terminal. We cannot stop the cycle. It does not end when we die. The goodness and meaning in Pemba’s life is reborn in our more learned and compassionate actions.

Pemba was devoted to helping poor children, to reforestation and to supporting education.  Any gesture of charity or compassion in his name will be an honor to his memory. If you would like to contribute to the Pemba Tsering Sherpa Memorial Fund, instructions follow.

Dear Anchi, Nawang, Pemba and Dawa,

We are so sorry to learn about your Pemba’s passing.   He was a great man, a wonderful, caring  human being.  We adored him, and felt immediately comfortable with him when he we first him almost thirty years ago.  He trekked with and cooked for us in Nepal in those early days, and was so hospitable.  We have felt close to him over the years, despite the distance and infrequent times we got to see him.  Whenever Pemba would come to Ann Arbor, we did make it a point to have dinner with him at Joan and Will’s, and several times Pemba also came to our house.  Last year, I remember we had wonderful conversation about Swami Ramdev, Nepal politics, his visits with his children, and the restaurant in Sonoma.

We never had silences in any of our conversations.  We talked about many things from serious politics of Nepal to funny stories of travelers to philosophy of Buddhism.   Pemba always talked so appreciatively of you Anchi and his family and we had fun sharing many parenting stories. When the children were little it was about the challenges and joys of raising young ones (as we also had two boys and a girl), and when older, the hopes for doing well in school, future careers and relationships.   He was always so concerned as a father, and felt so proud of you Anchi as a mother, and took joy in each one of the children.

We are glad that Pemba got to read our note last week and see the photos of our (pre-kids) 1982 trek and dinner with Sherup so long ago.  He introduced us and so many others to the richness of Nepal,  Sherpa culture and the majesty of nature.   He gave us and so many others the generous gift of sharing himself.  And that is to what we  are most grateful.  Though Pemba was not blessed with a longer life,  he was certainly blessed by the love that so many people around the world felt for him.

May his memory always provide you with strength, may the beauty of his soul remain a guiding light for you as you move through the rest your lives here on earth.  We are  are thinking and praying along here with you here.

~Rita Benn and Steve Lapedis

Heartfelt Condolences

Posted June 5th, 2009 by admin. Comment (1).

Hello Will, Joan, Anchi, Nawang, Pemba and Dawa,

Warm greeting from Yangon, Myanmar,

I just got home to day from my visit to Putao looking after construction of the project. It was a shock to learn that Pamba has passed away. I still remember like yesterday of our first (and happened to be the last) meeting some two years ago. Though I never met him when I joined Journeys I was always impressed by his contribution on the setting up of Journeys along with you. He was my hero eversince and I wished to meet and learn things from him. I met Anchi once on my visit to the US at the Webers’ home and another time when I visit them in Kathmandu.

Team of Journeys Myanmar send out heartfelt condolence of this lost and hope that JOURNEYS continue operation in Nepal which should benefit his family and implement Pemba’s thought and tradition which honor his memory and legacy.

Kishan, Vidya and Journeys Myanmar Team