What Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did for Nepal's sherpas
Tenzing Norgay set the motion that would change the fortunes of the sherpa community after he scaled Mt Everest with Edmund Hillary.
There is something else that Tenzing Norgay did when he scaled Mt Everest alongside Edmund Hillary, apart from putting Nepal on the Guinness Book of World records. When he became the first man, along with Hillary, to scale the world's highest peak in 1953, he also set up a motion that would eventually change the fortunes of his hometown Namche and the whole Sherpa community.
Namche, located 5,500 metres below the Mt Everest summit, was just another small hamlet in the fifties, with next to no amenities. Six decades down, it's a bustling small town with bars, internet access, cable TV and several such luxuries afforded by big cities. It's a hit with trekkers and mountaineers and gets close to thirty thousand visitors every year.
In a wonderful article in The Guardian called 'We owe everything to Everest and Hillary', writer Jason Burke traces the evolution of Namche, where the sherpas come from. Burke sets the tone of the article by quoting Kancha Sherpa, the last surviving member of the 1953 mission:
"We owe everything to Everest, and to Hillary," said Kancha Sherpa, who was paid eight rupees a day for carrying loads up steep ice slopes to around 23,000ft for the 1953 expedition and is one of the last veterans alive. "Now we have schools, clinics, bridges. Once we ate potatoes and dreamed of rice. Now we eat what we like. The expedition [of 1953] opened our eyes."
The rest of the story goes on to explore how Namche is handling its prosperity. Along with wealth, Namche seems to also invited pollution. The article quotes a trekker:
Longacre described "filth and rubbish" at the famous South Col, from where summit bids are launched, and said he had often thought of "how clean the mountain must have been" for the pioneers
It also looks at how the sherpas relate to the mountains. For some it's a spiritual connection that they share with the mountains, for some it's just another job which they hope their sons don't have to do.
Read the complete Guardian article here.
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