Unsung Heroes of Everest | Nat Geo Live

Unsung Heroes of Everest | Nat Geo Live


Sherpa does not mean
to carry something.
It’s an ethnic group,
it’s not a job.
I wanted to know
about the Sherpa.
And reveal a part of their soul
and their life and their vision
that we don’t normally seein those adventure magazines.( applause ) Um…I gotta comment on
this one really quick.
This is Danuru Sherpa.He became a really close
friend of mine
and was my guide
in the mountains.
And he is checking
Facebook on his iPhone.
I’m not kidding, it’s not
like my opening joke
It’s what he is actually doing.You can get really, really
good full-bar service at Camp One on Ama Dablam
at 21,000 feet, so… I’m the lucky guy that got
to photograph this story. I actually didn’t really care
about all this Everest drama and all these big adventure
stories that overtake every… adventure magazine
every single May.I wanted to know
about the Sherpa.
And I hope I’m going
to be able to show you
some images tonight that’llreveal a part of their soul and
their life and their vision
that we don’t normally see in
those adventure magazines.
You know, it all
started simply enough.
This is the trek to
Everest base camp.
But I knew eventually
that I would end up
getting into this.And I knew eventually we’d
get into this. Right?
And this is really
not my territory.
This was my warm-up hike.This is at around 20,000 feet.It’s really important to
reinforce this fact… Sherpa does not mean
to carry something. You know, we got all kinds of
packs, stuff called the Sherpa. Baby carriers called
the Sherpa… It’s an ethnic group,
it’s not a job.These guys are not Sherpas.They’re porters and they are
of a different ethnic group.
They are the Rai ethnic
group, from lower in Nepal.
The Sherpa’s work begins here,
begins at base camp.
You can see porters unloading
these massive packs
down here in the
bottom of the frame.
And it’s from this point on
that the Sherpa’s job begins.
They carry the loads up through
the really difficult terrain.
The terrain that requires the
crampons and the ice-axe
as they go through
the Khumbu Ice Fall
twenty-thirty times in a season.A lot of these loads are
upwards of 150-pounds.
If you shove that whole backpack
full of oxygen canisters
it’s incredible
weights, more than…
more than the body
weight quite often.
The work the Sherpa are famous
for is this high altitude work.
This is Ama Dablam Camp Two.This is one of the most
dramatic camps in the world,
That you can only fit
five or six tents.
They’re all at a
little bit of an angle.
It’s the last place
you can sleep
before you get
into the slopes
that can really avalanche
off on that mountain.
And I want to
put in one like
personal point of
view photograph
to show you what I see.What I have to do to
make these photographs.
I’m not a mountaineer,
so these were…
this was a new
environment for me. This is the, this is one of
those tents right there. I’m kinda walking past one
that’s right below them… to cross this little
bridge there. Back at base camp
the Sherpas gatherwith their expedition
team, to discuss
their roles on
the mountains.
Who’s gonna set
up Camp One,
who’s gonna take
down Camp Two…
who’s gonna carry
the kitchen gear
who’s gonna carry all the
Western climber’s stuff.
And in the case
of this meeting
they’re actually discussing
who is going to take down the dead body of
a Bangladeshi climber that was left on the summit. The family had
paid this company to try to go back
and retrieve it.One of their main jobs, besides
carrying these heavy loads
above base camp is
also essentially
the herding of the
human cattle.
You know, we’ve got these
big lines of people
going up these ropes andon a lot of these
Himalayan peaks they go
almost all the way from the
base to the summit
on many of the Himalayan climbs.And these are rope systems that a client can clip into
with an ascender and just keep putting one
foot after another all the way to the
top of the mountain.And quite often
people will go up
incredibly difficult
looking faces
and dangerous faces with
the help of the Sherpas just
because of these ropes.You can see in this
image, a Western climber
I think this guy’s… this looks
like a French-German group.
He didn’t know how
to use his ascender
and he’s being taught
100-meters below the summit.
His Sherpa helper actually had
to take away the ascender and show how to unclip
it and reclip it on. And then actually made
a couple of pulls for him so he could get up a
couple of feet and then you know, if this on Everest you
start having that bottleneck and hundreds of people pile up.You know, climbers like
that will often choose
this particular mountain
as their first peak.
And will actually have to climb
below that hanging glacier
over there to the right.Once the camps get established,
at these higher altitudes
the guides, these
amazing athletes
they kinda snap
into a new role.
It’s really like
kitchen helpers.
They’re boiling
water and cooking
food and taking
care of everybody.
And it was amazing for me
to watch these athletes
doing this kind of work,
was like watching
the NBA All-Star team like,waiting hand and foot on
wealthy clients.
It’s like having
Michael Jordan or LeBron James like, serving you,
like, cereal in bed while you’re still in
your sleeping bag. ( audience laughter ) ‘Cause these guys
they really are some of the best athletes
in the world. And they are spooning
this dude’s sugar. ( audience laughter ) And then asking whether he
wants butter on his toast. And this happens because
they pay the money for that. On Everest we’re talking
40 to 120 thousand dollars.For me, this story
was about this guy.
It was not about
the famous Sherpa,
it’s not about the guy that
has all the big sponsors,
it’s not about the
world record holder,
it’s about, kind ofthe blue-collar worker
of the Sherpa world.
The guy that just does the
work to pay for his family.
This guy has maybe
climbed Everest two, three, four times. He wants to pay to get
his kids through school. And he is gonna go risk
his life to do that. Death rates for
Sherpas working in the mountains on
these expeditions statistically is higher
than the death rates of US soldiers
in the Iraq War. So, pretty dangerous job.But at the end of the day
this is just about the money.
A lot of these guys really
don’t want to do this job.
They do it because there isa river of money running
by their villages
and the only way to get itis to jump in and follow it
all the way to Everest.
This was a surprising scene
I also saw on pay day.
It was a little
gambling and what
was surprising
was that they were
some of these guys were
playing with $100 bills
which would be like playing
with $2000 bills here.
It was a lot of money to
be messing around with. But I guess they
were celebrating the fact that they
had survived.At the end of the
Everest season, though
I followed down my Sherpa
guides and friends
because I wanted to go
into the villages to see
what their daily life and
culture looked like.
This is Namche Bazaar.It’s really the
hub and the heart.
It’s where everybody
kind of comes in.
It’s the center of
trading, it’s the last place to buy
all of your gear. Some people might even
helicopter into this place.It’s a tourist town full
of hotels, restaurants.
It’s probably tripled in size
over the last ten years.
Twenty years ago there were
none of these tin roofs.
It’s really big money is
running through this village
because so many
people are on this
trail and coming
into the mountains.
But I also got off the
beaten track a little bit.
This is the village of Phortse.
It’s not on the main, main path.
And this town stands out becauseit has the record for the
most Everest summiters.
Not the most summits, I
believe that’s Thame but Phortse has 60 people that
have summited Everest. And that’s nearly every home… in this village has somebody who either actively works right now
or has worked on the mountain.You know, these are
really quiet villages.
This is the village
of Thame
where people grow
potatoes, herd yaks.
There aren’t a lot
of other options
for making an income
besides the mountain.
Running a tea-house,
running a lodge those are kind of the dreams. A lot of people save up their
money to start up a tea-house so they won’t have to keep
working in the mountains.Life is really quiet and
slow in these places.
With the exception of the
heated volleyball matches
that happen almost every day.They were awesome to watchthey were super serious
about volleyball.
This is Sherpas versus porters.( audience laughter ) I saw several of these matches
that were Sherpa on Sherpa where every single member of
both sides had summited Everest. Those were cool to see. You know, whole games
of Everest summiters from the age of 16 to some of the guys
in their 50s still doing it.This is like the new face
of Everest climbing.
That guy on the left I think wasthe youngest guide in the
last handful of years.
He had just turned 16.This is, now we’re going
three generations back.
This guy climbed,
this is Karma Tenzing.
He’s 77-78-years old.He worked with
Sir Edmund Hillary
on expeditions in the 50s.And then in the 60s and 70s
he helped Hillary
put together roads,
bridges, schools,
a lot of the work projects
that he did when he returned.
And Hillary, who you can
see in this picture here,
he was really a model for the
Western-Sherpa interaction
for a kind of ideal
form of that.
He returned and gave
back to the community
and he is still honored for
his charitable contributions.
This is at the anniversary of
the school he started in Thame.
After the climbing
season, I wanted to return with some of the climbers
I had met to their homes.I followed Kalden Fura Sherpa
back to his home
the day he came
back from Everest
to see him reunite
with his children
at the tea-house he
runs with his wife.
You know this is a time
for young fathers to
reunite with their children that
they’ve left for three months.
But there are always
the cases where
the father, the husband, the
brother does not come back.
And that’s a really hard
part of the story to cover.
This is Nima Doma Sherpa.
She lost her husband Da Rita.
He died of heart failure on, at
Camp Three on Everest in 2012.
And he leaves behind at the time
a two-year old a three-year old
and considerable debt.And this is a bunch of
self-portraits from
last year’s
Khumbu Climbing School
at the Khumbu Climbing Center
that Conrad and his wife set up.
I really wanted
people to be able
to take pictures
of themselves
instead of always
having it be me
and my idea of what
they looked like.
One of the great
benefits of all of this Western
influence and help is in new education
programs like this, like the
Khumbu Climbing School.They teach basic safety skills.
A lot of these young guys
I’m talking about 16-year olds,
17-year olds, 18-year olds
going up to Everest.They’re jumping in the river of
money and a lot of these guys
they might be able
to keep up and
they might have
the lung capacity
and they might
be strong
but some of these guys actually
don’t know how to tie knots.
And they don’t know
how to set up anchors.
So people leave the school
really competent and safe.
They practice rescues and
wilderness first-aid.
All of this ultimately saves
lives on the mountain.
A lot of the children
from these climbers,
a lot of these
families, they don’t want
their kids working
on the mountain.
And they end up saving all their
money to send them to Kathmandu
and they’re gonna
attend boarding schools.
Like this one, Mount Kailash
boarding school in Kathmandu
where almost every
student here is
part of a Sherpa
climbing family.
And they live a lot of
times away from
family or with
relatives in the city
in hopes that
education will bring
them a different
job than climbing.
This is Tashi Jangbu,
he is 16-years old.
He lives away from his family.His father has
summited Everest 13 times,
and is saving money so that
his kid can go to school.
And so that the family can
build a lodge or a tea-house and kind of move away from
this mountaineering industry.While I was in
Kathmandu I got to see
a really different side
of the Sherpa world.
I got to go to
some dance parties
with some of my
new friends.
You know, their lives are
really different than this
kind of romantic village life.These guys are living
just like my friends.
They live a big urban life,
they go out, they… some of these guys
really love climbing. They travel all over the world.
They’re professionals. They’re part of European
mountain guiding associations. So, you do have
both sides there.One of the things
I really wanted
to do was to
find a way to
bring back how the
Sherpas see themselves.
This is Danuru and
his mother Daki.
Daki had eight sons, that all
worked in the mountains.
Five are still alive.Danuru is the youngest
and lives with her
and helps take care of her.You see this photo wall
behind them, behind Danuru
with his summit picture
and his family.
I found a way through
these picture-walls
I think to share how
they see themselves.
How they see their own
families that they provide for
with this work that they do. Why
do they do this risky work?
To pay for this.
To pay for their…
family, for their future.And I wanted to also
show, what do they do
when the world isn’t watching.When our photographers aren’t
hovering over their shoulders
trying to get
National Geographicpictures.You know when they go climbing
alone with their wife, right?
These are photos I
could never get.
I love these…
I love these found photos
from their own collections.What photos they carry to the
top of the mountain with them.
What do they carry up there?And what photos do they
return home with, right?
To hang on their own walls.I love this one.
( audience laughter )He brought his kid’s
stuffed gorilla up there.
You know, so I collected
these summit photos.
I collected hundreds of these.These are the images
of the Sherpa,
like we’re not used
to seeing them.
It’s usually the Westerner
we see in the victory pose
and I think there’s
a lot to learn
from how the Sherpas
see themselves.
And to me it’s a reminder,you know, in this
world full of stories
about Western
climbers and
victories and
dramas, you know…
that it’s not all about us.( applause )

84 thoughts on “Unsung Heroes of Everest | Nat Geo Live

  1. The Sherpa are the real heroes of Himalayas….. And never underestimate the power of Nepali Sherpas….. Proud to be a part of the nation where Sherpas , Gurkhas and NEPALI lives ❤️❤️✊✊

  2. These westerners thinks still they rule Asia. They have colonized and looted every other countries earlier and now they became arrogant visitors to Asia. Now these losers are trying to show the Sherpa in bad light. The world know how these arrogant western guys show their uncivilized behavior in other countries.

  3. Foreigners are despicable. All of you should be ashamed. Take your money and donate to the education of the Nepali people and spend your time hiking mountains within your own capacity. >:(

  4. Hats off to Sherpas and Tibetan. Strongest human being on earth . God bless them, one of the dangerous job on earth . Without them impossible to climb Everest. They carry all your luggage and needy thing and they climb up to Everest. Om Mani Padme Hoong.

  5. nowdays people who says i climbed mount everest are not actually.they are carried by sherpas.
    they tie ropes and everything. and in general sherpas are more established than normal nepali due to the guts the have got.Amazing

  6. Informative, interesting and a very well-presented video. Thank you for showing us another side of the adventure. Without the sherpas, there wouldn't even be a small number of the people climbing Mt. Everest every year! It's their mountain, their life even before Hillary's climb in 1953, and while we know it is Nepal's primary source of income and that they can be paid extremely well compared to what they would get at some menial job in Nepal or Kathmandu, still it's admirable that they do it. They consider their mountain a holy place, but now, they have to go up early every April before the climbing season starts in May and pick up pounds and pounds of litter that careless people leave on the mountain, as well as set up the 4 major camps. They are acclimated to altitudes because they live in an area that has an average altitude of around 7,000', but still, it's a dangerous mountain to summit and most of the people who climb it, never summit. And lives are lost every year.
    It takes from 6 to 8 sherpas to recover a body on the mountain. Families will pay plenty to get them to do it, but of course, there are bodies that are never recovered, especially in the Death Zone. And helicopters cannot fly to the high camps due to the thin air and lack of needed lift for their aircraft. The same low-oxygen air that addles the brains of climbers.
    There are many other mountains that are far more technical, and strategically more difficult to climb, and certainly more dangerous than Everest, but most sherpas won't go there! A good number of people who climb Everest have NO business being on the mountain in the first place, but because it is the tallest in the world, there will always be people who want to attempt to climb it. There are many who say they "climbed Mt. Everest" but most do not summit the mountain, and lives are lost every single year to HAPE and HACE (high altitude pulmonary (lung) edema and cerebral (brain) edema or swelling. And then there are the ones who fall into a crevasse or are covered by an avalanche, never to be found and the ones who fall and get injured and have to be brought down to lower camps so the helicopters can pick them up and take them to a hospital.

  7. All this moaning in the comments about how unjust it is that the Sherpas aren't paid more. Okay, so go climb Everest and pay them all you want.

  8. Why would anyone make Everest the first mountain they ever climb, knowing fully that you're inexperienced. Selfish and stupid much

  9. I thought the term Sherpa was an alternative for a guide. Instead of saying Sherapas, they should just say Everest guides. It's kinda confusing for us Westerners.

  10. Climbers risk their life for bragging rights and Sherpas risk their life in order to provide for their family. "It's not all about us".

  11. These problems will sort themselves out naturally.
    Soon enough their towns will get McDonalds and Starbucks, the Sherpa will become too unhealthy to climb.

  12. This was really moving. I’ve been watching documentaries about people who climb Mount Everest and other mountains. I’m fascinated by it because I would never attempt it but I understand that desire to achieve even if they’re risking death. This video shows the importance of the Sherpa and the fact that without them, the porters, the guides and others, many more would die!

  13. If "they" hadn't started to fix ropes in the first place, there wouldn't be so many crowds that don't know what their doing.

  14. I want (and have wanted for years) a full-length documentary of these amazing people. We spend so much time watching wealthy people (some of whom have no business doing so) climbing Everest, and always they require the help of Sherpas. Who helps the Sherpas? No one. These people are fascinating and incredible adventurers, perhaps some of the bravest and toughest adventurers on the planet. Get on that documentary, NatGeo!

  15. all these people who say I climbed Everest". Wrong! its the sherpa thats climbed for that westerner.

  16. Why are the Sherpas heroes? And why should they be sung about? They are paid incredibly well to be Sherpas. The Sherpa is the highest paying profession in Nepal.

  17. Amazing vedio and thanks a lot for educating the people who are having misconception about sherpas and thier culture and history.

  18. Climbing everest not easy when you have to deal with some people and their greedy hobbit the west should help them so they do not have to risk your life

  19. What happens if the government bans permits or nobody wants to climb it? I do like the approach of high lighting Sherpas but western/eastern mountaineers already hold them in the highest regard.

  20. It would be grand if a lot more people would follow Sir Edmund Hillary’s example and do something to give back to the Sherpa. What a guy and true mountaineer he was.

  21. I respect that you document these amazing people & all they are. I’ve never scaled a mountain (& don’t want to), however I totally admire and respect the Sherpa men that risk their lives to support their families amidst the ignorance & egos of some people that don’t appreciate or even realize everything they do! Amazing respect to them and to you for documenting it all. Thank you for sharing

  22. I appreciate this documentary & applaud you for doing it. I am not a climber & certainly not a mountaineer but I can absolutely respect and appreciate the greatness of these people. Thank you for sharing

  23. "And it's not all about us". A nice way to sum up. Respects. And lot of respects to sherpa community. From india.

  24. You forgot to mentioned that that sherpa’s and porters get very little of how much client pays to the agents so please do not mislead

  25. i guess the first to reach the everest summit is a sherpa. watching videos about climbing mt. everest gained my respects for the sherpa. they save lives
    at the expense of their own.they are the
    true climbers.

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