The autographs of people who have stood atop the world’s highest mountain line the walls of the Rum Doodle Bar and Restaurant in Kathmandu. The best known is the late Edmund Hillary, half of the two-person team that first reached the top of Mount Everest in 1953. His climbing partner, the late Tenzing Norgay, was a member of Nepal’s Sherpa ethnic group.
Near a photo of Norgay, draped with a red Buddhist scarf, are signatures of Apa Sherpa, Lhakpa Ghelu Sherpa and Babu Chiri Sherpa — who have set records, respectively, for the most number of summits, fastest summit and most hours spent on the top.
Most Sherpa climbers work on the mountain. They guide foreigners to the top, set ropes and ladders, and carry everything from food to tents and oxygen canisters up. These jobs have brought money and development to their communities, but little glory for the Sherpas.