By Navesh Chitrakar
I went to document life around Everest just a week after 16 Nepali Sherpa guides were killed there in an avalanche. In total more than 4,000 people have reached Everest’s summit, and about 250 people have died climbing it. But this was the deadliest single accident in the mountain’s history.
It had big consequences. After the disaster, Sherpas staged a boycott and refused to take foreign climbers up the mountain. Guides take huge risks when they help tourists up Everest, but sometimes they earn as little as $1,000 in a season. Many are angry with the Nepali government, which makes a lot of money from the dangerous business, and these feelings have fuelled their actions.
So when I flew to Everest to photograph the situation, I knew that all would not be well.
It took around 45 minutes for me to fly from Kathmandu to Tenzing Hillary Airport in Lukla, more than 2,800 meters above sea level. Being at such a height makes you realize how delicate you are and how strong Mother Nature is. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), or altitude sickness, is a problem you have to be prepared for before you leave.
To give myself a chance to adjust, I spent a night in Lukla, the so-called “Gateway to Everest”. The village is well equipped with hotels, cafes, and shops selling mountain gear. Here, you can really see what a big industry Everest is.