Before I share more about my 27-day trekking in the Himalayas, I would like to write about the people who made my trip possible first, the Sherpas.
Yes they work as porters for trekkers and climbers, but many of them are Sherpas. Sherpas literally means eastern people. It might be a bit complicated to really tell the origin of Sherpas and their relationship with other ethnic groups in the Himalayan region in Nepal, but it is generally believed that they are originated from Tibet and moved into Solu Khumbu region in Nepal for 500 to 600 years ago. They are people who live in the high mountains, and we are talking about the Himalayas. Instead of referring to mountains, my guide always said we were trekking in the Himalayas which is distinct from other high mountains from his perspective. I couldn’t agree more with him after the trekking.
Even you are not in mountaineering, you might have heard about the name Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, who summited Mt Everest for the first time in our human history with Sir Edmund Hillary together in 1953. Another super Sherpa, his name is Apa Sherpa, who has climbed Mt Everest 21 times. I have been the village (Thame) he was originated from, the house is full of his certificates of Guinness World Records.
Sherpas do not have tall stature in general, but their fitness and endurance are unbelievable. My word to describe them is ‘bottomless’. By what I have seen, they can just give and give. I joked with my trekking guide that we need an antomy of their bodies to find out how come they are so strong. He replied that it was just because they focused and believed that the hardship would finish soon. Is it that simple? I don’t think so. But they do have the ability to take whatever thrown to them. We came to a conclusion that even we raise a new born baby from another culture in the Himalayas (if he survived), he would not be as fit as them. The DNA adapting to high altitude is not the same. My guide finally agreed with me there are something unique in their bodies.
When we were crossing the first high pass, Kongma La Pass, it was steep and with deep snow. I think my sherpa probably carrying a backpack with 30kg load, and opening the path with his ice axe in the front. I must make a note here, 30kg at over 5000m IS NOT 30kg; the weight felt like multiplied. When I was struggling with the altitude, he and my guide even grabbed more things from me to help me out. From that day on, I called them ‘super humans’. Wathcing what they have done during the 11-hour gruelling journey, it was eye opening and touching.
As I said above, Sherpas could take whatever thrown to them, they will just tough it out. Unfortuntaely, there have had tragedies happened to Sherpas during their services for mountaineering and trekking activities in the Himalayan region. The recent one was the massive Everest avalanche above Everest Base Camp which killed 16 Sherpas last year.
Some of these tragedies were preventable or could be mitigated. If you are planning to do trekking in Nepal and using Sherpas, please spend some times to understand how you could be a responsible and ethnical trekker to protect them. There are different organisations dedicated to the welfare and safety of Sherpas/porters, here is the one I would like to refer you to, the International Porter Portection Group (IPPG). Check out their five guidelines and how to choose trekking company.
Back to my sherpa Pemba, he is very proud of himself from Makalu region and has been above 8000 metres. Makalu is the world’s fifth highest peak (8463m). Really, Sherpas shall be proud of themselves as they are the people who born in the Himalayas and truly belong to the mountains. Their contributions to climbers and trekkers are tremendous in history as always been.
My respect and gratitude to Sherpas ever.