These are times of crucial change for Sherpa culture, and in particular for the subculture of the Sherpa climbing community.
Since Sherpas first were hired away from their potato farms to carry loads for an expedition in 1907, Sherpa culture has arguably been more influenced by the Western passion for mountaineering than by any other single force.
In less than a century, they have come from wondering about the sanity of the mikaru, their term for foreign climbers, to being among the best mountaineers in the world themselves.
Sherpas hold speed records on Everest. They work as guides on Denali and Mount Rainier. In 2012, Mingma and Chhang Dawa Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks became the first two brothers to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter (26,000-foot) peaks.
It’s hard to imagine that the Sherpa porters on the British expeditions to the Tibet side of Everest in the 1920s did not even have a word for “summit.”
Instead, they were convinced, as Wade Davis notes in his book Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest, that the foreigners were treasure hunters searching for a statue of a golden cow or yak to melt down for coins.