Life on the edge: Review of ‘Sherpa: Stories of Life and Death from the Forgotten Guardians of Everest’ by Ankit Babu Adhikari and Pradeep Bashyal

Why the role of sherpas, who help climbers with technical advice and everything else, must never be forgotten

Published - December 09, 2022 03:38 pm IST

Climbers make their way to the summit of Mt. Everest.

Climbers make their way to the summit of Mt. Everest.

Summitting Mount Everest is a much-lauded feat. There are celebrations galore. But do we hear anything of the people who made that climb possible? Sherpa: Stories of Life and Death from the Forgotten Guardians of Everest by Ankit Babu Adhikari and Pradeep Bashyal keeps the reader’s focus firmly on the men who are “the climbers’ weather experts, technicians, medics… and anything else needed for survival.”

Right from the first chapter, the authors plunge into what it’s like to live on the edge. As much as they foreground individual sherpas, Adhikari and Bashyal also trace the development of the trekking industry on the slopes of Mt. Everest and how the community has used it to create opportunities for itself. Alongside success rides devastating loss.

Reading about Furdiki Sherpa and Nima Dorma Sherpa is particularly difficult. Both women lost their husbands to the mountain and decided to do the ascent together. “My eyes were constantly wet,” says Furdiki talking about how the climb only reminded her more about her husband. Now a full-time trekking guide, Furdiki plans to summit the highest peaks in all seven continents along with Nima Doma.

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay | Photo Credit: The Hindu archives

Tenzing Norgay stories

In ‘Revisiting Tenzing Norgay’, the authors meet Jamling, Tenzing’s son, who talks about his father’s passion for the mountains. “He would tell me stories, but all of those would be about mountains. Sometimes I feel I have known the mountains long before I came to know myself or my family,” he says. He also addresses the controversy about who reached the summit first and recalls his father saying, “If I had known people would be this discourteous to our hard work and achievements, I swear I would have never gone there.”

All this apart, the book also offers a view of lives in Sherpa villages, how modernisation has affected them and why they continue to risk their lives. As the authors put it, “They know the mountains can kill, yet they partake in someone else’s dreams of standing on the roof of the world, driven by the hopes and prospects of pursuing a better life for their families.” The next time you hear of someone summitting Mt. Everest, spare a thought for the one that made it possible.

Sherpa: Stories of Life and Death from the Forgotten Guardians of Everest 
 Ankit Babu Adhikari, Pradeep Bashyal 
 Hachette  
 ₹699  
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