Local author talk highlights last living member of original Everest expedition
In April 2019, in the small town of Namche in Nepal, Pattie Moon listened to the story of Kanchha Sherpa. Kanchha is the last living member of the first summit of Mount Everest in 1953, and Moon was interviewing him for her book “Tough & Cheerful: The Life and Times of Kanchha Sherpa, Last Living Member from the First Ascent of Mount Everest.”
It was a member of Kanchha’s extended family who asked Moon to write the book, she recalled, while they were hiking a steep stretch of trail in the Langtang region of the Himalayas.
“I could hardly breathe, so I just said, ‘Yes,’” Moon said.
The next year, Moon traveled back to Nepal, where she stayed with Kanchha for three days, learning his story. As she listened, she realized it was not just about Kanchha but about Nepal and its challenges, changes and how the country has been redefined since that first summit.
“There’s much more to his story than Everest,” she said. “That was a defining moment in his life, but his story and the story of his country actually mirror each other.”
Kanchha grew up in a remote valley with nothing — his family struggled to find enough food; they went barefoot and had no knowledge of a world beyond. But summiting Mount Everest — known as Chomolungma to Kanchha — changed not only his life but the trajectory of his country.
“What struck me more than anything, though, was that he carries no anger, no judgment. He is at peace. He’s funny, he laughs a lot, and he’s very open with his heart,” Moon said. “I think the biggest lesson is that no matter how difficult your life is or what circumstances you grew up in, there is a chance to not only make something of yourself but also to see the world in a bigger picture and to be at peace with yourself.”
What: Local Author Spotlight: Pattie Moon
When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9
Where: Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library, 1289 Lincoln Ave.
Moon, who has been fascinated by Nepal for years, made her first trip there in 2009. She has since traveled back nearly every year before the pandemic. It was on her first trip that she sprained her ankle and was required to be on horseback for the duration of the hikes.
“I had Sherpas by my side in case I needed anything,” she said. “And I just asked them a million questions, because I wanted to know everything. That deepened my respect and knowledge of the Sherpa community. And while I didn’t go to Nepal expecting to fall, I actually did fall in love with the Sherpas.”
Returning home, Moon read every book she could find about Sherpas, Nepal and their culture. Shortly after, she was appointed program director of the Sherpa Education Project, a Steamboat Springs-based nonprofit that helps support Sherpa communities in the Solukhumbu region of Nepal. The organization works to provide educational opportunities for children — particularly girls — whose parents cannot afford to pay for schooling, books, uniforms and more.
Traveling back to Nepal each year, Moon became ingrained in the community, befriending the Sherpas and their families and traveling with Pemba, her manager and translator.
“I’ve found another home,” she said. “It has been my greatest honor, and perhaps a highlight of my life, to have been entrusted with writing this book. I am humbled that I could be a part of recording the history and also offer a glimpse into the future of this wonderful country.”
In conjunction with the Bud Werner Memorial Library and Off the Beaten Path bookstore, Moon will give a free talk on her book in Library Hall on Thursday, Dec. 9. She will also host a Q&A with the audience. Copies of the book “Tough & Cheerful” will be available for sale and signing from Off the Beaten Path. Moon is donating all proceeds from the book to the Sherpa Education Project.
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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