Young Hoon Oh, South Korean PhD candidate in anthropology at UC Riverside, is headed to Nepal at the end of the month to attempt his second Everest summit. But his itinerary extends well beyond the days he'll try to reach the top of the world. He'll then spend a year and a half living with Sherpa families in order to research his dissertation. His goal is to document how mountaineering has transformed Sherpa society over the nearly 100 years during which Western climbing guides have employed Sherpa people as porters.
Without this assistance, many hundreds of climbers from all over the world could not have ascended Everest and other Himalayan peaks. But the benefits that mountaineering has bestowed on Sherpa culture aren't always as clear, says Oh. Yes, Himalayan mountaineering and trekking have brought a thriving tourism and guiding industry to the region. But that has come at a price.