Culture of the climb: Natives to the roof of the world

By Mara Klecker

I worked with James Wooldridge on a story about the relationship between the Sherpa community and the commercialization of Mount Everest. Last night, I sat down and read my journals and notes from my weeks in the Himalayas. I wrote pages and pages about trekking, about my altitude sickness, about my sheer awe at the views of the towering peaks and plunging valleys. But I also wrote about the incredible opportunity to spend time with and learn from the people that have stood at the top of the world, often risking their lives for just a few thousand dollars.

I’m now in my first full-time reporting job and I find myself thinking about those Sherpa villages almost daily. I think about the grit of the Sherpa people, about their dedication to their culture, complicated by their desire for progress. I think about how I went into the mountains with one perspective, believing I would tell a story about westernization and exploitation. That’s not what I found. Rather, I found humble, faithful, business-minded people who see a progressive future for their own culture and welcome the promise of prosperity.

There truly is an incredible and sacred peace in the mountains of Nepal. It’s almost eerie the way it rolls in with the morning fog. The Sherpa people are a part of it – they live among it, respect it, pray to it. It lives in the stupas and the prayer wheels, in the mountaintop monasteries. But most of all, it’s in the kindness and the humility of the Sherpa people – something I’m so grateful I was able to witness.​

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