As Lieutenant Jigme Pelden Dorji of the Royal Bhutan Army returns to Kathmandu today after summiting Mount Everest, 8,849 metres above sea level, there are confusions as to whether the lieutenant was the first Bhutanese to scale the highest peak in the world.

This is because there was one Karma Gyeltshen who claimed to have climbed the Everest in 2005. The media coverage Karma Gyeltshen received in 2005, including in regional media, convinced many that he was not only the first Bhutanese, but the first Bhutanese youth to scale Mount Everest. 

He was not.

Karma Gyeltshen, although a trained mountaineer who attempted climbing the Everest, had never reached the peak. All he did was hoodwink the media with his make-believe stories.  At home, then the only newspaper, Kuensel, like some of the regional media, including Everest News, Nepal, was convinced by the story Karma Gyeltshen fabricated. 

In an interview through a satellite phone with Kuensel on May 27, 2005, Karma Gyeltshen claimed to be at Everest base camp and was brave enough to mislead the people back home. 

 I was very proud to unfurl my country’s flag at the summit. It was an overwhelming experience. I am happy that I was the first Bhutanese to do so,”  he said.

Following his claims, a private company, appreciating his “achievement” and making the country proud, even gifted him a brand-new car.

After the controversy about his claims, Karma Gyeltshen disappeared.  Kuensel failed to clarify or apologise to the readers for the false news (there is no record of correcting the story in Kuensel).

However, Kuensel today offers its sincere apologies and wants to set the record straight that Jigme Pelden Dorji indeed is the first Bhutanese to summit Mount Everest.

In verifying the list of climbers, Karma Gyeltshen’s name is not in the list of Everest climbers compiled by the Department of Tourism, Nepal, “Mountaineering in Nepal, Facts and Figures, 2023.”  

The director general of ICIMOD in Nepal, Dr Pema Gyamtsho, also clarified through social media that he confirmed with the president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, the national authority for registering and announcing the outcome of mountaineering expeditions to Everest, that Jigme Pelden Dorji  is the first Bhutanese to summit the Everest successfully.

We stand corrected and offer our sincere apologies for the misinformation and the confusions created. 

Meanwhile, Jigme Pelden Dorji joins the list of nearly 12,000 people who have climbed the Everest since the first expedition in 1953. It is another achievement for Bhutan even if we consider mountains in our country sacred and climbing forbidden by laws. 

Jigme Pelden Dorji‘s feat is a feather in the cap for the Royal Bhutan Army and Bhutan. Thousands of people try to conquer the highest peak in the world, but many return halfway through, while some are not fortunate enough to return alive.

Jigme Pelden Dorji has done us proud!