After Tragedy, A Look Inside the Lives of Sherpas

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

An elderly Sherpa woman holds her prayer beads May 25, 2003 in Phakding, Nepal in the Solu Khumbu region. (Paula Bronstein/Getty)

Sherpas have led Western climbers through the treacherous Himalayas since the late nineteenth century, but Sir Edmund Hillary's summit of Mount Everest cemented the practice in modern memory.

Hillary climbed with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, and as Hillary told the press, "Tenzing and I have been climbing together a good deal and I think we've become a fairly happy pair." 

Today, the Sherpa community mourns, after an avalanche on Mount Everest killed at least 16 guides. Unless the Nepalese government meets certain demands, the Sherpas will strike. A Sherpa strike would mean the end of this year's Everest climbing season, a serious blow for the Nepalese economy and a disappointment for many mountaineers.

Peter Athans has worked with the Sherpa community since the 1980s. He's climbed Everest seven times, he's produced documentaries for National Geographic and PBS, and runs a climbing school for Sherpas in Nepal. He joins The Takeaway with longtime mountaineer Alan Arnette to discuss the Sherpa community and what the strike means for them, and for Nepal. 


Alan Arnette and Peter Athans

Hosted by:

Todd Zwillich

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger

Comments [2]

Matilda Virgilio from Valley Stream, NY

The need to climb Mt.Everest, which seems to me to be a need of the idle rich to be entertained by their own ego, to compete with their own inner demons, to contribute to their sense of worth, to fill their idle time, to give their life meaning....This issue is a perfect metaphor for the class struggle which has existed since time began & is now playing itself out in yet one more arena. The idle rich pursue their pleasure on the backs of the poor..yet doing it with a sense of feel be on top of the they can look down on the rest of the world. Ironically on the backs of the people who truly live heroic lives in silence to help their families...It would be a greater thing to do...if they provided sustainable life options for the Sherpas OR IF they used their money to help others in need, better yet to roll of their sleeves & do some hands on work...break out into a sweat & get their hands dirty helping others who need it. Those are the real mountains to surmount....In their own back yards, no need to go to the other side of the world for challenge themselves.....DENIAL & ENTITLEMENT cloud the ego...We have misplaced our souls lost in the gilded statue we call "freedom to pursue happiness" How can it be good to pursue it on the backs of others? This is why the camel will seldom fit in the eye of the needle

Apr. 29 2014 12:14 PM

Great story. What was the song played during the interlude at about 1249 pm mountain time?

Apr. 23 2014 04:11 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.