Are there still Sherpas
A life-threatening job : "We Sherpas are not pack mules"
Where were you during the earthquake?
I had just returned with a client from Camp 2 to Mount Everest base camp at 5,270 meters. We had stayed for two days upstairs to allow him to acclimatise. I was standing by the tent where there was dinner, hadn't even taken off my harness, then we felt the shock. We immediately prayed “om Mani padmi shade ham,” a Buddhist blessing. Then I saw a white wall coming towards us through the clouds.
The earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 triggered an avalanche of dust.
I dived behind the tent, crossed my arms in front of my face so that there would be an air hole. I gasped from the air pressure, people screamed around me. Within ten seconds I was buried under snow, chunks of ice racing towards me. I punched myself free. I am always so lucky. Nothing happened to anyone in our group. The entire base camp was destroyed. We mended our tents. It wasn't until two days later that I found out that my brother was also alive in Camp 2 and that my family was fine down there.
18 people died that day on Everest alone, almost 9,000 in all of Nepal. Even so, some tourists wanted to try the climb afterwards.
I get that, they invested up to $ 70,000 in the tour. The government closed the mountain immediately. The avalanche had destroyed the way through the Khumbu Icefall, the most dangerous part of the route. The SPCC, the Environment Committee, always secures this part of the route with ropes and ladders so that it can be crossed at all. Only the most experienced Sherpas work on this glacier: the ice doctors. Your
Work was getting too risky now.
Since the first ascent in 1953 by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, around 1,000 people have perished on Everest, the vast majority of them Sherpas. Most recently, an avalanche killed 16 mountain guides in 2014. Why are you doing this job?
I'm not looking for adventure. It's my job. Overseas people hear my name and ask: How many kilos can you carry? We Sherpas are not pack mules. We are an ethnic group, we belong to the lower castes. We have no prospect of good government or corporate jobs. That is why we have been working in the mountains for generations. Our children shouldn't have to do this work anymore. The government earns $ 3 million annually in promotion licenses. We are hardly involved in it. If I get to the top, I'll get $ 6,000. That is ten times as much as the average income of my compatriots.
But an expedition lasts up to 75 days, we can't do the job for long, we don't have a pension. I know many impoverished families where the man died on the mountain. After the serious accident in 2014, around 200 Sherpas renounced mountaineering, and some women had forbidden it. There was a kind of emancipation movement among us with demands on the government. Since then, every company has had to insure all employees, guides, porters, cooks. Our survivors will receive $ 15,000 if we have an accident on the mountain.
You have reached the summit of Everest four times, 8,848 meters, and climbed another 8,000 meters. What was the most dangerous situation you have ever put yourself in?
For a long time it was thought that Everest was technically easy. But he's tricky. With or without avalanches - there are 100 ways to die on Everest. In the ice fall, a chunk of ice broke off with a huge roar exactly in front of me, another time I spent 48 hours in the cold. When I made a rookie mistake, my middle finger froze: I was warm, I took off my gloves.
When the weather is bad, I wonder why tourists don't prefer to carry their money to dream beaches. But when the sun is shining and you are on the highest peak in the world, it feels very sublime. Not only professionals have wanted to go up the mountain since the 1990s. Many a tourist can be flown up to 6400 meters. Scam. But money can't do everything. Some become so weak at this altitude because of the lack of oxygen that they cannot continue. We Sherpas don't care much about the altitude. It's genetic. Our villages have always been at 2500 meters, so we grazed our yaks.
It's gotten ridiculous: One of my colleagues almost died because he had to carry up a client's skis so that he could have his picture taken with them on the summit. For us, Everest is a sacred mountain where the goddess Chomolungma, mother of the land, retreated to sleep.
What do you wish for this place?
He deserved more rest. There are queues in front of the summit. The path is lined with plastic, gas bottles, ropes and corpses. Your return transport is too expensive. It should be mandatory to deposit a sum so that the corpse can be disposed of if the worst comes to the worst.
For the first time since 1974, no one reached the summit in 2015. What does it mean for Nepal to close this landmark?
We are heavily dependent on tourism. Since the earthquake, tourists have even stayed away from cultural monuments such as Kathmandu's temples. Hotels are closed, shops are empty. Now, of all times, when I am young and strong. The earthquake made me only $ 2,800 in 2015, that should be enough for a long time. That's why I moved to the USA, near New York.
Skyscrapers instead of mountains!
What I love about the USA is that the heaters in the houses work, that there is clean water and stable internet. Nepal appears to me 200 years back. I now work as a cook in an Indian restaurant. There I bake the bread in the clay oven. Look at my burns. I am a man of extremes. I can withstand minus 45 on Everest, and also the 500 degrees on the stove.
Where is your family
I had to leave my wife and three year old son in Kathmandu. I miss her a lot. But what should I do? We skype every night. My parents and siblings live in a small village in the Everest valley, which consists of nine buildings. The earthquake tore down their house, they are still sleeping in a bamboo hut. Of the many millions of donations from all over the world, the people in the villages hardly saw anything.
When can you go back?
I call my company and friends regularly to see if there is work. It looks more like I'll have to stay here for another year. I see my wife clinging to my leg so that I don't climb Everest. It's like going to war. But deep in my heart I really want to go up again. It's also the fame. If you've been up eight times, your group will be able to do anything - even if it's only on a hike. This is a currency among us Sherpas. We are respected men. I spent twelve years becoming a good mountain guide. I'm much better at it than at cooking!
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