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Elia Saikaly

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The Forgotten Heroes Of The Himalayas

Posted: 09/20/11 01:24 PM ET

Since Mt. Everest was first successfully climbed in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay from the South side in Nepal, it's become ever so common for daring men and women to tempt their fate and set their sights on the highest point on planet Earth.

Others, with just as much passion for discovery set out on a grand adventure with the intent to explore and experience the classic trails of the Khumbu Valley that lead to Mt. Everest base camp. An unparalleled vacation filled with majestic mountains, glorious sunsets, an unlimited supply of children, monasteries and cultural experiences to last a life time.


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Often we take for granted the men who help make this formidable journey possible. Those who are the backbone of all trekking and climbing groups. The men who work day in and day out to ensure we are well taken care of and that our belongings arrive safely from village to village. The selfless, hard working, ever-dependable, relentless porters of the Himalayas.

For three weeks now, my group and I have been acclimatizing in Nepal preparing our bodies for an ascent of an 8201 metre mountain in Tibet -- Mt. Cho Oyu. Collectively our team has eight duffle bags that weigh approximately 400 pounds. The majority of the weight is compromised of camera equipment, editing equipment and satellite transmitters that we are using to document the adventure and broadcast daily on the web on www.findinglife.ca More often than not, we forget to take the time to honour the men who make it all possible. We catch glimpses of them on the trails, often hoisting an exaggerated amount of supplies on their backs, trotting the beaten path in nothing more than sandals or flip flops with walking sticks in hand and smiles on their faces.


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They ascend the hills with ease as most of us are short of breath and incapable of carrying our own supplies. They humble us and inspire us all in the same shortened breath while their positive spirits seem to awaken our souls. They arrive long before us with our supplies and gear and depart for the next destination the following day as soon as we have our bags packed and ready to go.

Over the years, this being my sixth trip to Nepal, I've come to truly appreciate the work that these men (and sometimes women) perform and I feel a responsibility towards them, not only for their safety and well being, but also in terms of their recognition. All too often we take credit for these extraordinary accomplishments without paying tribute to those that make it possible to succeed.

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Dawa Tsering Sherpa - Our unofficial head porter
Age: 22 years old
He's been carrying loads as a porter for 10 years
Village: Thaksendu Changga
Favourite food: Nepali Dahl Bat (although he is quite fond of rice pudding)


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Karma Lama Sherpa
Age: 40
He's been carrying loads as a porter for seven years
Children: Lhakpa, Pemba, Mingmar
Wife's name is Chukpa
Favourite food: Nepali Dahl Bat


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Pasang Temba Sherpa
Age: 20
He's been carrying loads as a porter for seven years
Favourite food: Nepali Dahl Bat


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Khayla Sherpa
Age: 45
He's been carrying loads as a porter for 20 years
Wife: Chukpa Sherpa
Children: (Three sons) Chuldim Sherpa, Pemba Nuru Sherpa, Pasang Sherpa
Favourite food: Nepali Dahl Bat


These men have worked relentlessly with us for the past three weeks and we are forever in their debt. Their warm smiles were always there to greet us and aid us in times of need. They each went above and beyond to serve us at the highest level and we not only recognize them as team members, but as friends. It's often in the most humbling of moments in these environments, when we are stripped down of our status quo and our egos that we realize that all of us are equals regardless of where we come from or what we have materially. Here in the mountains, you learn, none of it really matters. What truly matters is not what we have, but who we are on the inside. In the Himalayas, richness is measured from within, an immeasurable value system that we can all learn from.

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Until next time my friends... Thank you.

 

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