Sherpas hardly live the high life
Director: Jennifer Peedom
I had more or less expected a documentary about the tough little critters of the Himalayas who lug great weights up mountains for fat-cat climbers.
And that something was perhaps along the lines of extolling Nepal’s tough little Gurkhas who have borne weapons and shed their lives for the Brits for over 200 years.
This doco, filmed in 2014, started that way, lauding the bravery and durability of the Sherpas, beginning with Tensing Norgay who helped Ed Hillary conquer Mt Everest in 1953.
There are interviews with Tensing’s sons as well as spectacular views of upper Everest, but not a jot of mountaineering, though it will still make worthwhile viewing for the crampon set.
Sherpas are a stoical, humble and religious breed and the filmmakers had been keen to check out any tensions amongst these hardy guides and human pack-mules. The season before the film was made there had been fistfights between these nuggety mountain men.
It just so happens that this time during filming, 16 Sherpas were killed by an ice avalanche while lugging freight up the treacherous Khumdu Icefall.
That leads to the Sherpas banding together, and much to the chagrin of the foreign climbers who have forked out up to $110,000 each to be in the mountains, the Sherpas down tools. This is what provides the story’s philosophical angle – whether the good coin the Sherpas earn from lugging coffee machines, chairs and other luxuries upstairs for foreigners, is worth their lives.
Maybe everyone should leave polluted old Everest alone and let the Sherpas subsist in their villages as they did before Hillary and co arrived.
Maybe the great mountain has sent a message to both sides.
The documentary offers a contrasting perspective on last year’s drama Everest.
That movie, which had strong Kiwi links, focused around another disaster that took place on the world’s highest peak in 1996.
The hard life of Himalayan mountain men is documented in Sherpa.