Besides the world's highest bar, the Saturday market and the full-frontal view of Thamserku, there is now one more must-see in Namche Bazar: the Sherpa museum. And it's all thanks to Lhakpa Sonam Sherpa, the self-confessed mountain maniac. Lhakpa's quest for Sherpa memorabilia was triggered by a British photo-jouranlist who came inquiring about his father, noted climber Sonam Girmi Sherpa, who had taken part in 37 mountaineering expeditions. "I got really interested and started collecting oral testimonies and artefacts and reading reference books," Lhakpa told us. The Sherwi Khangba Centre in Namche was inaugurated by Sir Edmund Hillary in April 1994. It has a Sherpa Culture Museum, a Mt Everest Documentation Centre, and an expanding library with over 118 valuable research books. The 40-year-old spends hours in libraries while travelling abroad. Lhakpa sees his father as part of the climbing generation that contributed to the growth of Khumbu, and he is proud to document the Sherpa community's role in modern Nepal for scholars and, importantly, Khumbu's youth. "I suffer from not having a good education," says Lhakpa. "I want to invest in education. Children here have little access to such resources."
As a student at Hillary's Khumjung school and later a Hillary Trust Scholar, Lhakpa did well in his studies, but plans to become an engineer were shattered when he lost his hearing to a bout of meningitis. Lhakpa turned to his true passion, and though he did go on a few small climbs, his heart remained in the library. Then came the centre, the hotel and museum, which he designed and runs with his wife Ang Kanchi.
"Initially, locals thought I was mad," he recalls. Trekking companies have added the museum to their Khumbu itinerary, while groups of trekkers huddled up at Kalapathar tell everyone up and down the trail about the Sherwi Khangba Centre.