Nepal’s Sherpas unemployed: base camp without mountaineers


Status: 03/28/2021 5:25 a.m.

High mountain tourism, including eight-thousand-meter ascent, was a growing source of money for Nepal before the pandemic. But now many Sherpas are unemployed. New ideas should help them.

From Sibylle Licht,
ARD studio New Delhi

Pasang Rinzee Sherpa is at home on the mountain. He leads mountaineers to Mount Everest. The 33-year-old earns good money by Nepalese standards, 8,000 US dollars a year. But now he has no more income. His customers have stayed away for the second year in a row – because of the pandemic.

He had to ask his landlord to suspend the rent. His meals are modest and he can no longer afford to go to restaurants. Now he has developed an alternative business model with friends and founded a café. For the Sherpa this is only a temporary solution. He hopes to be able to set off for the Himalayan mountains again soon.

In some years, traffic jams on the ascent – like here on Mount Everest – made headlines around the world. In times of the pandemic, the Sherpas wait in vain for mountaineers from all over the world.

Bild: Chhoki Sherpa

Two million tourists will stay away in 2020

The global pandemic hits Nepal’s Sherpas hard. Hardly any of the men who usually accompany tourists to the high mountain world and lead specialists to Mount Everest currently has an income. Nepal had hoped that the tourists and mountaineers would come back. But in Europe lockdown follows lockdown, and in Germany the Foreign Office warns against traveling to the high mountain region. Because the coronavirus is also rampant in Nepal: So far, a good 275,000 Covid-19 diseases and around 3,000 deaths have been reported.

In the past year alone, according to the pre-Corona plans, two million visitors should have come from abroad. Now just 300 climbers want to climb Mount Everest. After nine months of isolation, Nepal lets them back in. Visitors need a negative corona test for this. The quarantine can last between five and 14 days.

Sherpas can only work for half a year

Sherpas can only earn something for six months a year. “The season runs from March to May and from September to November,” explains Dawa Sherpa. He is Nepal’s Vice President of the Sherpa Association. “We mustn’t let ourselves down now, otherwise depression and suicidal thoughts will occur. We have to see that we stay mentally healthy.”

A lot depends on that. Many travel agencies are owned by the Sherpas, and they lend and sell special equipment for mountaineers. These employees are also without income. The country kept its borders closed for nine months. The government actually wanted to help the Sherpas financially, but nothing happened, says Dawa Sherpa. His association finally collected donations worldwide so that families can afford groceries.

Picture from better days: a Sherpa team in the base camp on Mount Everest.

Bild: Chhoki Sherpa

Nepalese get to know Nepal

In the second year of the pandemic, Nepal’s government now has an idea. The local tourism market is to be developed. The young Sherpas will soon be recommending excursion destinations to the locals on social media platforms. “I’ve been to Germany, many European countries, the USA and other parts of the world, but I don’t know my own country very well,” admits Dawa Sherpa. There is a problem there. “We Nepalis are strangers to each other, we hardly know each other.”

That should change now. Around 100 different ethnic groups live in Nepal and speak 124 different languages. The Sherpas will also have to take this into account in their advertising campaigns. So far they have learned English, German or Mandarin. There is a Nepalese proverb, says Dawa Sherpa: “Instead of dying, it is better to live crazy.” If no more money comes into the country, the Sherpas would have to come up with something new.

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Nepals Sherpas unemployed base camp mountaineers


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