National Geographic : 1992 Dec
after 1949 climbers were able to trek right through Khumbu to reach Everest. In 1953 New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa raised in Khumbu, became the first to reach the 29,028-foot summit. Some Sherpas accused Tenzing of killing the golden goose; they thought the feat would end mountaineering in the Himalaya-and their livelihood. It did the opposite. By 1976 all but eight of Nepal's 25,000-foot-plus peaks had been topped. The tourist-trekking business had blossomed, and Sherpa life was changed forever. Today more than half of all Sherpas live off tourism and mountaineering. Cooks, guides, and camp staff are among the best paid people in Nepal, earning as much as $1,200 a year in a country where the average annual income is less than $175. Sherpas themselves rarely carry loads on tourist treks; they hire three-dollar-a-day por ters from among the Rai, Tamang, and other local Nepalese ethnic groups who aspire to be "sherpas," which has become a job title for a mid-level camp assistant. The Sherpas who climb on hazardous high-altitude expeditions One shy, one show-off: Young Sherpa girls master the art ofbubble gum (below), a treat brought by foreign trekkers. Camping in private fields (right)for five rupees (about 15 U. S. cents) a day, trekkers leave prob lems as well as profits. Their trash litters camps and trails.