It’s been only a year since fake “climbers” sent 16 Sherpas to their deaths on Mount Everest. Now it has happened again.
An expedition in the primitive Himalayan range to climb the highest mountain in the world was once an amazing feat of climbing skill, physical endurance and mental toughness.
Great climbers such as George (“because it’s there”) Mallory and others famously perished in their attempts in the early 20th century. Finally, a New Zealander, Edmund Hillary, reached the top in 1953, and was promptly knighted by the queen of England.
Hillary summited with one of the indigenous people of the local Sherpa tribe, Tenzing Norgay. Hillary spent the rest of his life raising millions to build “Hillary schools” in the remote Sherpa villages. Norgay, too, was a terrific, if untrained, climber, a great man and an advocate for his people.
The respect between these two friends of dramatically different backgrounds was evident when Continue reading
As I trekked to Everest Base Camp this month, I often thought about the 16 Sherpas who were crushed to death by an avalanche just days earlier as they ported the loads of Westerners through the Khumbu Icefall far above me.
And I thought about their 40-some children who were left fatherless.
I thought about the 16 and the 40 when I saw:
• A young porter laboring up the steep rocky trail at 16,000 feet with a full-sized gas oven on his back, so that Westerners could enjoy fresh croissants and birthday cakes in the 1,000-person tent city they call Base Camp.
• Porters each shouldering several 4-by-8-foot plywood sheets for tent floors, together with 12-foot-long 4-by-4s for the foundations, so that Westerners could enjoy flat floors in their tents.
• Porters carrying as many as nine cases of Continue reading
Months ago, I scheduled a trek to Everest Base Camp. By sheer coincidence, I wound up on the trail a few days after 16 Sherpas died in an avalanche on the mountain.
My guide was himself a Sherpa, named Kami Tenzing Sherpa (the last name of an ethnic Sherpa is traditionally “Sherpa”). Kami lost friends in that avalanche, but he still wanted to guide me up to Base Camp, and that he did.
We talked and talked. Kami told me that his life was one of crushed and fulfilled dreams.
A devout Buddhist, he had dreamed of becoming a monk. His faith is different from mine, but in the two weeks we walked together I was stunned by his patience and kindness.
I often saw him stopping along the trail to rescue a caterpillar or worm in harm’s way, helping flies in a restaurant find their way out past a window, playing with a toddler in a simple lodge or offering a candy bar to an old, half-blind American who was stumbling up the rocky path. But his dream of becoming a monk was crushed because his older brother insisted that he instead earn a living.
Kami had another dream. He dreamed of Continue reading