The melting ice pinnacles of the Khumbu Glacier at Base Camp.
It is the high altitude guides mainly from the Sherpa community who are mostly the reason those records can be set. From setting up tents, preparing food, fixing lines, stockpiling oxygen at high camps, and deciding all-important climbing windows – it is the Sherpa who do it all.
Nepal’s other ethnic groups have also started to rise up the ranks in different roles, and even among the Sherpas there are more and more from the Makalu and Rolwaling regions.
We are here to follow one such Sherpa, Lakpa Sherpa from Walung below, Makalu, as he leads his first clients up the world’s highest peak for the first time as the proprietor of his brand new 8K Expeditions outfit.
He plans to climb with his clients, who trust his expert guidance. It so happens that one of Lakpa’s first clients is Ang Tshering Lama, owner of The Happy House in Phaplu – the place that Edmund Hillary considered his home as he built schools and hospitals in Solu Khumbu decades ago.
Back in Sir Ed’s day, Phaplu was an important stopover on the walk-on from Lamosangu on the Everest trail. Today, most trekkers start their journeys after flying to Lukla, or even higher. Soon, a road from Phaplu will arrive at Chaurikharka below Lukla.
For now, helicopters are the taxis of the Khumbu sky during peak season – ferrying cargo and trekkers up and down between Lukla and Base Camp. Call them the ‘Ubercopter’, or ‘Heli-Tootle’ of the Himalaya.
Lakpa Sherpa himself came to Kathmandu and rose up with no wealth, no contacts, pulled himself up with the straps of his climbing boots, starting out as a porter 14 years ago.
“I started from zero,” he recalls. “I didn’t get a leg up from my father or my brothers. I used to wait around the shutters of different trekking agencies in Kathmandu to get work.”
His first jobs were with Pasang Sherpa’s Green Lotus Trek and Expeditions. Eventually, he was promoted to Mountain Guide, and between 2016 and 2021, became Managing Director of Pioneer Expeditions.