For more than a century, the Sherpas of Nepal have carried western explorers up the forbidding peaks of Everest. But for them, the cost of their labor far outweighs the reward, as many are left crippled or killed, leaving their families to bear the burden of our excesses. In the August issue of Outside, Grayson Schaffer travels to Nepal to find out why this problem has been ignored for so long. Gathered here are a few of these unsettling portraits.
High-altitude stroke victim Lhakpa Gyalzen lives alone in the village of Phortse. Lama Geshe, the Khumbu's highest-ranking holy man, told him to read 100,000 pages of Buddhist script to heal himself.
The Khumbu Icefall—a chaotic tumble of ice blocks, towers, and crevasses between the Western Cwm and Base Camp—is always among the most dangerous obstacles climbers face on Everest.
Nima Lhamu lost her first husband, Dawa Temba, to the Khumbu Icefall when she was six months pregnant with their son, Chosang.
Chosang Tenzing, 6 at the time of this photo, is Nima Lhamu’s first son. She was six months pregnant in 2006 when her husband Dawa Temba was killed
Lhakpa Rangdu, 44, with the X-ray of the ankle he broke while climbing with a Scottish and South African team on Nanga Parbat in July 2012. Despite the compound fracture, Lhakpa Rangdu returned to summit Everest this spring to earn money for his kids Chhoki, 12, and Mingma, 9.
Tsiring Sherpa, 22, is the first graduate of a non-profit scholarship that pays for local children from the Khumbu region to study at a boarding school and go to college in Kathmandu. "Sherpas don’t want their sons to become mountaineers,” he says. “They want them to be engineers and move out to the Western world."
In the confusion of the crowds of climbers, sixteen-year-old Nima Chhamzi Sherpa and her father, Dendi, 39, a climbing guide who'd already summited three times, were for a time thought lost to the mountain back in May 2012. "There were just bad rumors," she says.
Jangmu lost her husband, Dawa Tenzing, to a stroke he suffered at Everest's Camp 1 while working for Himalayan Experience.
Ang Kami was climbing with a Nepalese army expedition when he lost his feet to frostbite. He was sent to the U.K. to receive treatment and now collects a government pension. He’s also fixing up a tea house near Phakding.
Mingma Tshering helps care for his nephew Chosang, whose father died on Everest in 2006. Mingma worked on Everest for the first time this past spring, carrying loads to the South Col.
Read Grayson Schaffer's feature story from the August 2013 issue, Disposable Man: A Western History of Sherpas on Everest.