Local Hero: Pemba Sherpa 

A disastrous earthquake strikes Nepal in 2015 and Boulder restaurateur, philanthropist, and businessman Pemba Sherpa, 50, springs into action, helping to restore a hydropower station, erect a suspension bridge, and rebuild homes.  

Today, Pemba’s Sherpa Chai (sherpachai.com) company and Sherpa’s Adventure restaurant employ 50 people from numerous countries, donate food to the North Boulder homeless shelter, support the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, and resettle newly arrived Nepalis. 

Born into poverty in the Himalayas, Pemba came to the U.S. in 1991. He soon started working as a restaurant dishwasher five days a week and as a stable hand shoveling horse manure the other two days—and he attended Emily Griffith Technical College in Denver. Later, he established his own climbing and trekking company, Sherpa Ascent International, and has been guiding clients from around the world for the past 20 years. 

“I see my life as a journey of experiences both good and bad, with lessons learned along the way,” he says in his book written with James McVey called Bridging Worlds (Sherpa Publications, 2019). 

“I believe the experiences of my childhood taught me survival skills that have served me well in life, instilling the values of hard work, resourcefulness, perseverance, and patience. I know the meaning of struggle and hardship,” Pemba says.

His success in business allows him to continue assisting the Khumbu region on the Nepalese side of Mount Everest. A fixed-wing pilot, he wants to build a hospital in Nepal specializing in telemedicine, and qualify for his helicopter pilot’s license to conduct rescue work in the high-altitude world he calls home. 

“More people who are in a position to help like I am should lend their time, ideas, and financial support to improve the lives of others in need,” Pemba says. We say follow his lead.

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