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Everest prints on sale to support Sherpas
Ajachi Chakrabarti  26th Apr 2014

Two of the donated images: The Return by Aaron Huey and (below) Room With a View by Jimmy Chin

he morning of 18 April was just another day in the office for the Sherpas of Mt Everest. It was the day before the official climbing season started, and their task was to lay out climbing ropes along the popular South Col route to the summit, so that paying "mountaineers" would quickly follow them to the top before it grew too dark to take a selfie. The route, first taken by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, has seen "traffic jams" in recent years, with photos of long queues as ubiquitous a sign during the climbing season as photos from the top.

But at 6.45 a.m., disaster struck. A large serac — a ridge of ice on the surface of a glacier; this particular one was "as large as a Beverly Hills mansion" — broke off from the western shoulder of the mountain, triggering the deadliest avalanche in the history of the mountain. Sixteen guides were killed, while nine others were injured. After threatening to go on strike when the Nepali government offered them pittances in compensation, the guides decided to suspend the rest of the climbing season out of respect.

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50% of the proceeds (after printing costs) will go to relief funds, the rest will be diverted to a vocational training centre and a clinic at the mountain’s base camp, both run by the ALCF.

While the Sherpas' grievances about working conditions, pay and insurance coverage are valid ones, which deserve closer debate, there is no denying that the avalanche was a human tragedy. Various organisations, such as the American Alpine Club and the American Himalayan Foundation, have begun "Sherpa Support Funds" to lend aid and support to the victims' families.Image 2nd

Also pitching in is the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation, named after the famed climber who died in a similar avalanche while climbing the 8,013-metre Shishapangma mountain in 1999. Once the tragedy hit, a group of 10 photographers led by National Geographic photographer Aaron Huey and Outside Magazine's senior editor Grayson Schaffer generously donated a selection of their photos of the Everest region and its people, which the Foundation will sell to raise funds for its support fund. The images, curated by Sadie Quarrier and Amy Silverman, photo editors of the two magazines, are breathtaking visuals of the mountain in all its majesty, capturing on film both its divine beauty and aura of formidability. Prints can be ordered off their website — www.sherpasfund.org — for $100 each.

While 50% of the proceeds (after printing costs are deducted) will be divided between the ALCF's own Widow's Relief Fund and the AHF's Sherpa Family Fund, the remaining 50% will be spent on long-term community assistance. This includes the Foundation's flagship Khumbu Climbing Centre, which focuses on vocational training for high altitude workers, teaching mountain safety, rescue and climbing skills in the region — thus saving lives by helping prevent accidents — and Everest ER, a medical clinic it runs at the Everest Base Camp, which has treated thousands of climbers and porters over the past 12 years.

 
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