If the discovery of Peak XV was the crowning achievement of years of hard work put in by members of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India, climbing it has ever since been a chore just as challenging. But the hardships this behemoth presents to the alpinists, which are often as tall as the mountain itself, has not deterred the determined. Death of pioneers such as Mallory and Irvine did not dampen the climbing spirits of the mountaineers from far and wide. But the history of Everest is incomplete without the saga of the Sherpas, whose contribution to climbing predates Tenzing’s and Sir Edmund’s first ever ascent in 1953. With each new climbing season, Sherpas have made and tumbled mountaineering records almost without fail. Similarly, all other records on Everest notwithstanding, Appa’s 14th successful summit-bid on the morning of May 17 will go down in the annals of climbing history as another milestone.
There is no denying that Sherpas were introduced to the world in a grand fashion following Tenzing’s success. The latter’s achievement highlighted his ilk’s ability to conquer snow slopes, and with it travelled Nepal’s intrepid identity across the globe. The result: Nepal’s potential as a tourism destination multiplied manifold. Overall tourism received a major boost, and with it the revenue. But it is unfortunate that Sherpas, on whose laps lies the mountain and largely on whose name comes the revenue have witnessed little transformation in their lives. It is time that they were made a major beneficiary of the royalty lured in by their heroics. Investing a small chunk of what the Ministry of Tourism makes each year in royalty — $75,000 from each expedition — would greatly help the residents, Solukhumbu. Summitting is a culmination of hard work and perseverance. Appa’s achievement is another moment to look back and reflect upon the achievement of this brave and talented breed of people.
But it is also time to look back upon what the country and the people have done to this class, a class which has hoisted Nepal’s flag on top of Everest and beyond. If Sir Edmund could single handedly build schools and transform the lives of thousands of Sherpas, it is also time that something concrete is done to improve their living conditions. It is natural for any proud Nepali to regale at the news of another climbing record tumbling at the feet of a fellow citizen of his. But to ignore the need for a comprehensive benefit package for the latter borders on exploitation of sorts. The government must ensure that the climbing royalties percolate down to the upper slopes of Solu. Meanwhile, congratulations Appa — for a great job well done!