The Thankless Life of a Sherpa

If you’ve ever trekked in Nepal, you’ve no doubt witnessed the marvelous mountain goat abilities of the local Sherpas.

I consider myself a pretty decent backpacker that moves at a pretty decent speed. But Sherpas regularly blew past me at double my speed, carrying triple my weight, and doing it all in flip-flops.

And as if to rub in how much more manly they are, their packs were usually large whicker baskets supported on their back by a strap around their forward. I always peered into the baskets when they walked past and marveled at the contents; fuel canisters, bags of rice, dozens of bottles of Coca Cola, and, in the case of the wonderful photo above (FishBowlEscapes via Flickr), entire steak flanks.

I traveled the popular Annapurna Sanctuary route where guest homes along the way fed us the very food and drink we saw passing us on the trail. Let me tell you, I sure appreciated that 50 cent bottle of coke all that much more after witnessing the manpower required to get it up there.

So, how hard is the Sherpa life? How difficult is it schlepping up and down the mountain every day supplying greedy foreigners with their Coca Cola?

Well, to find out, writer Erick Hansen strapped on the head gear, loaded up a basket and gave it a shot.

Instead of watching that rerun of Friends tonight, spend a half hour listening to his Outside Magazine podcast; you probably won’t complain about your job ever again.