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The Sherpa Problem

With growing attention to Nepal and the Himalaya region, the Sherpa community comes into focus. When you think of a sherpa, what comes to mind? You might picture him on a snowy mountainside, wrapped in a down jacket, braving the cold winds of the Himalaya, complete with a dizzying display of ropes and metal tools slung from his harness. All of these images aren’t inaccurate. Sherpas, the ethnic group from the mountainous Khumbu (Everest) region of Nepal, have become known to Western audiences for their skill in the mountains. The region has lent many people the opportunity to work in the Himalaya, such as with climbing outfitters. Most of them take jobs as guides, porters, cooks, and others. So it’s not surprising that the term “sherpa” has become synonymous with “mountain guide.” While the depictions of Sherpas in media aren’t untrue, often a tourist-heavy western narrative dominates the voices of the Sherpa themselves, leaving a huge community of Himalaya  – which is essential to climbing in the region – voiceless and misrepresented. I recently talked …

The Allure of Everest

The Nepalese government recently granted a climbing permit for a Japanese climber to climb Mt. Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. In the past few months, climbing was put on hold in Nepal, at least for the bigger 8,000 m+ peaks. After the plunge of tourism due to the May earthquake, this re-opening of the mountain may mean an increase in tourists for the mountain’s fall climbing season – which is good for the Nepali economy. But recently, Everest has become more a famous name than actual, tangible feat to be accomplished, let alone an actual travel destination. And the media are eating it up: Take the newly released film titled “Everest,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, and Kiera Knightley. So far, it’s made $101.7 million at the box office, en route to even more after this weekend. The name “Everest” has become codified as some holy grail of climbing – mainly because it is. It is literally the tallest thing in the sky – even the Everest movie’s poster has the line: “ “Human beings …

Book Update: Fall Reading List

Farther Away by Jonathan Franzen – I’d never read any of Franzen’s fiction, but based on this collection of nonfiction essays, there’s no doubt his voice is descriptive as it is powerful  – comparable to voices like Eggers and Wallace. My favorite essay, so far, has to be the book’s namesake, “Farther Away.” It was published originally in The New Yorker, and takes place in Masafuera Island, next to Robinson Crusoe. On The Trail of Genghis Khan by Tim Cope – This book covers Tim Cope’s insane 10,000+ mile journey from Mongolia to Hungary by horse and foot. His writing style is unique, and it makes for a great armchair read. It’s super inspiring – it makes me want to take a trip of this caliber sometime soon. Don’t we all? One More Thing by B.J. Novak – Novak’s collection of short stories is crisp and easy to read – but not at the expense of sharp prose and well-crafted humor. Some stories are two pages and some are two paragraphs. He can really make the most out …

Gear Review: Patagonia Ascensionist 25L

In search for the perfect daypack… I’ve been looking for a daypack that’s both packable (able to be folded and stuffed inside my bigger 65L bag) and light, without sacrificing support or comfort. I’ve cycled through a couple that just weren’t the right “fit.” Some were either too bulky (REI Stoke 29), or too light (REI UL 18 – this one actually tore at the seam). So, finding that balance has taken a while. It’s really all about preference – some people love a sturdier, more cushiony pack, even though it might be a little heavier on your shoulders. The Ascencionist Pack only weighs 12.3 ounces, so the real weight will only come from what you put in it. When folded, it can be stashed into a smaller compartment in a bigger backpacking pack. I went on a climbing trip to Great Falls last weekend, and here’s what I stuffed inside: Comfort: The pack is meant for climbing and dayhikes. It’s not exclusive to one or the other –  it makes sense that the padding is pretty thin. …

Before You Hit The Trail: My Gear Essentials

There’s an infinite amount of ways to get info about dressing for backpacking. Many articles, magazines, and guidebooks have loads of good tips and advice for dealing with the elements. But many of these pieces vary with the season – you’ll see articles like: ‘The Best Fabrics For Summer’  or, ‘Winter Layering’. I could get into the many sub-sects of dressing for the outdoors; instead I’ve picked the clothes that I continually use throughout the year.  I found it much easier to pick the essentials – the pieces I find myself using on the majority of my trips. Obviously, you’ll need more than just these to be completely prepared (I didn’t include baselayers, or mid-layers, really – it’s pretty much understood that you’ll be wearing these). But the ones I’ve listed here are always great to have. All in all, these are pieces you want to have stashed in your pack at all times. The Shell: armor for the elements Besides my boots, my shell is probably my most-used item. The great thing about this …