David Sherpa

A breaker of records,
a builder of dreams.

Mingma David Sherpa

From his earliest work as a porter, to his achievements as a record-breaking mountaineer in his own right, Mingma David Sherpa’s career has been built on his quiet, steely determination, and an unparalleled ability for meticulous planning. Combined, these character traits have helped him become one of the outstanding climbing talents of his generation. 

A resumé full of records

In January 2021, Mingma David became one of the first people ever to reach the top of K2 in winter, alongside his Elite Exped co-founder Nimsdai. Known as the Savage Mountain, the world’s second-highest peak is widely regarded as its most dangerous, and climbing it in winter was a feat that had previously eluded even the most talented of mountaineers, despite 30 years of attempts.

The Elite Exped founders’ incredible feat was not just a personal triumph, it also marked the first time an all-Nepalese team had ever achieved such a first on an 8,000m peak. Yet this is far from Mingma David’s only record. As a key part of the team behind Project Possible, Mingma David Sherpa helped Nims achieve his seemingly-unbelievable goal of climbing all 14 of the world’s 8,000m peaks in the space of just six months - and shatter the previous record by more than seven years. 

As well as providing essential support, Mingma David stood shoulder to shoulder with his partner on eight of the 14 summits, setting his own world record in the process: he was just 30 years old when they reached the final peak, Shishapangma, making him the youngest person ever to have climbed all 14 of the world’s 8,000m peaks. His feats won him the title of “Sherpa of the Year” in 2019, and the coveted Piolet d’Or Asia award - equivalent to a mountaineering Oscar.

Forging his own path

Despite achieving more in his first three decades than most climbers could in a lifetime, Mingma David Sherpa (also known as Mingma Gyabu) never set out to be a mountaineer. He grew up in the Sherpa community of Phaktalung, Eastern Nepal, but no-one in his immediate family had ever worked in the climbing industry, or knew where to start. Instead, like most of the men in his village, Mingma David was expected to become a farmer. Then, when he was still a teenager, fate intervened. 

In 2008, Mingma David travelled to Kathmandu, to visit his cousins. He’d intended to stay for a month, but civil unrest meant that the roads back east were blocked. “I was in grade nine, and felt that staying in Kathmandu was the right thing to do,” he says, “But I didn’t have money, so I started looking for jobs.” An acquaintance asked if he could join a trek as a porter, and the young Sherpa agreed - little knowing where that path would lead him. 

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Mingma David Sherpa pictured before climbing K2 during winter, 2021

Mingma David Sherpa pictured before climbing K2 during winter, 2021

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Mingma during his bid to summit K2 during winter, 2021

Mingma during his bid to summit K2 during winter, 2021

Trekking around Annapurna, Langtang, and Manaslu, Mingma David found he took to the work easily. His natural physical abilities and excellent English meant he was soon promoted to trekking guide. But after two years in the business, on a trip to Manaslu, he realised he wanted something more. “I felt I could climb,” he says. “I knew my body could perform well at altitude.”

Determined to prove himself, he began to take a series of mountaineering and rescue courses. But it wasn’t until he approached the highly-experienced Everest guide, Dorje Khatri, that he got his break. “He saw the passion in my eyes, and said I could join his next expedition as an assistant guide,” Mingma David says.

David Mingma Sherpa
High altitude expedition leader

“I [always] felt I could climb. I knew my body could perform well at altitude.”

Seizing the day

An Everest expedition is a tough enough test for anyone, let alone a young man who was still studying for his school leaving certificate. But Mingma David’s calm, modest demeanour impressed the crew, and when he was offered a chance to show off his natural climbing abilities, he jumped at it. 

Tasked with carrying eight oxygen tanks from 7,000 metres to 8,000 metres - higher than he’d ever been before - he climbed the entire distance in one go, stopping only once to sip from his water bottle and put his sunglasses on. Climbing 1,000 vertical metres in one stretch with a heavy load is an incredible feat. Doing so when you’re already 7,000 metres above sea-level is nearly superhuman. Mingma David had more than proved his worth to the team, and shortly after he summited Everest for the first time, he returned. By 2012, the year he finished his Advanced Mountaineering Training Course, he’d already stood on the summit of the world’s highest mountain three times.

Over the next two years, he notched up more successful summits, climbing K2, Makalu, Cho Oyu and Manslu - twice. But then, tragedy struck. In 2014, Dorje Khatri, the mentor who’d given Mingma David his break, was killed by an avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall, the treacherous sea of crevasses that climbers must cross to reach Mount Everest. He was one of 16 sherpas who lost their lives that day.

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Mingma at the summit of Nanga Parbat, 2019

Mingma at the summit of Nanga Parbat, 2019

A new, enduring partnership

Mingma David was heartbroken by the loss of his friend. But out of the tragedy grew undoubtedly the most significant climbing relationship of his career. Nimsdai Purja, then still a serving member of the British Special Forces, had previously hired Dorje Khatri as his guide. So when he was looking for a team to help him take on Everest, he sought out the great man’s colleagues. Nims and Mingma David clicked right from the off, and the enduring partnership that forms the foundation of Elite Exped was born.

Safety at speed

Like Nims, Mingma David is renowned for the speed at which he operates in high altitude environments. But he’s perhaps even more famous for his ability to operate safely, and to come to the aid of others in need. Meticulous preparation enabled Mingma David to guide double amputee Hari Budha Magar up Mera Peak in 2017, and on countless occasions he’s selflessly given up his own ambitions in order to save the lives of others.

Among his many world records, Mingma David proudly lists the fact that he has rescued more than 100 injured climbers successfully - including helping an Indian mountaineer down from Everest’s Camp Four at 8,400m in 2016. He was one of the main stars of the Everest Air documentary series in 2016, and in 2013, set the record for the highest ‘long line’ rescue ever performed, dangling hundreds of feet below a helicopter to reach a stricken climber 7,400m up on Dhaulagiri.

Elite Exped

After several successful climbs together, Nimsdai and Mingma David realised that they shared more than just an uncanny ability as mountaineers - they had a similar approach to expedition planning and safety. They established Elite Exped in 2017, to pass their knowledge on, and help others set their own personal records in the mountains.

Whether it’s their impeccable safety record, their proven planning and preparation, or simply their unmatched climbing ability, Nims and Mingma David are the best of the best. They look forward to helping you achieve your ultimate ambitions, as they have theirs. 

Nimsdai Purja MBE preparing and checking equipment at K2

Purja MBE

Former UK Special Forces Operator, the fastest person to climb all 14 x 8000ers, first winter ascent of K2, 10 x mountaineering world records, this truly is unparalleled leadership in the guiding world.

Nimsdai and team discussing strategy and progress high on Manaslu, 2019

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