Sam: This is it.
Frodo: This is what?
Sam: If take one more step, it'll be the farthest away from home I've ever been.
Frodo: Come on Sam. Remember what Bilbo used to say, "It's a dangerous business Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Everest tragedy and Everest Sherpas

On the day I walked to Everest Base camp I saw two avalanches on the peaks surrounding Everest though not on Everest itself. Still the Everest tragedy was never far from our minds. I didn't have much internet access during this time so I wasn't following so closely except talking with other trekkers and guides while sitting around the yak dung heating stove in the evenings. There was talk that the whole expedition season might be cancelled. Some said due to ice conditions that made it difficult to lay rope and ladders, others said due to increased fees demanded by the Nepalese government for the Sherpas. I'm not sure exactly what the situation is. 

Later at the teahouse in Tengboche I met an Everest Sherpa with multiple Everest summits. The topic of conversation naturally turned to the recent tragedy. He named the villages where the Sherpas who died had come from: Khumjung, Phortse, and others. These were all familiar places to us. We had stayed in teahouses there. I know that the people in those communities are very much affected. The Everest Sherpa described a few of the Sherpas who had died: one was 27 or 28 years old and had a wife and one month old infant. Most others also had families. 

The Sherpa and I had some time to kill before he was to meet new clients so we got to  chatting. He confirmed what I had read was typical of elite Sherpas: His father was a Sherpa. He started working on expeditions since he was a child. Eventually he trained at the Khumbu climbing school, a well-known training ground for mountaineering Sherpas in this region. He had summited Everest multiple times starting when he was 18 years old. I actually can't remember the exact number. I think it was 8 or 9 including from Nepal and Tibet.  Now he has a home in the Khumbu for the climbing season and one in Kathmandu for the winter. In the summers he works in Switzerland. He was nonchalant when describing all this. There are many, many people working as trekking guides, mountaineering guides, porters here in the Khumbu but he is at the top of his field, having multiple Everest summits. He has been employed with the same Everest expedition company the whole of  his career so I am sure he is very senior in that company b

Looking at the teahouse menu, he said his favorite was sherpa pancake. I think it's a potato pancake. He said he could twenty of them and I believed him. 

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