Kari Kobler's Mount Everest 2002 Expedition

Kari Kobler

Photo Kari Kobler

The Sherpas are an important part of the expeditions. Their roots are East Tibet, from where they emigrated to the Solu-Khumbu area on the Nepalese side of the Everest Massif in the 16th century, and they're ethnically closely related to the Tibetans. On their search for work some Sherpa men went seasonally to Darjeeling as early as the 19th century and they were hired as "kulis" in road construction and mountain expeditions (first one in 1907). 

The word Sherpa changed over the course of times: was it originally a description of an ethnic group, it is now synonymous with the role- and status symbol of a high performance porter with experience in climbing. The latter expertise they often learn abroad, sometimes in classes in Chamonix. 

The Tibetan Mountaineering Association has recently started providing Sherpas for the North side of Everest as well.

Once you meet a Sherpa or even observe them at work, you learn to admire their skills and character. A helpful and friendly behavior at any time of the day is their nature. Expeditions accept them with great respect as an independent team. Usually they are shy and held back in their communication, but not unapproachable. On the mountain one stops amazed, if some of them fly by with loads more than 20kg, conquering heights with an ease that we can only dream of. Eleven Sherpas, among them five Tibetans, are part of our expedition. This short summary shows the incredible effort it takes to fix ropes from BC to the summit, carry equipment for 15 climbers, and to remove everything afterwards: approx. 5000m rope, 30 tents for three high camps, 40 sleeping mats, 30 cookers, food, 46 oxygen tanks and 20 oxygen masks.

The Sherpas are well paid. According to their expertise and performance each gets the following (US Dollars): Base pay per day $10, one time fee for equipment $1300-1500, plus bonus pays between the camps: ABC to Camp 1 $20, Camp1 to Camp2 $60, Camp2 to Camp3 $80, plus a summit bonus of $2000 which all Sherpas that summit share. In total, a Sherpa earns in two months on Everest three times as much pay as a well educated official in Nepal for the year. 

Our Sherpas are a good unit, and according to Karti and our own impressions they performed extremely well. They fixed two thirds of all the ropes, partly during extremely rough conditions with strong winds, and additionally they laid the fixed ropes to the summit and were this year's first Sherpa crew on the top. 

Michele Mérat

[Note EverestNews.com plans the Sherpas of Everest Series this Summer where you will learn much more about these climbers.]

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