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Matt Dickinson's Everest broadcast: A Load Too Far

Monday, 18 April 2016

Our Young Adult author, Matt Dickinson, has joined Jagged Globe as Writer in Residence for their 2016 Everest South Col expedition. The team is stationed at Everest Base Camp where Matt has been blogging about his adventure to hundreds of schools across the UK and abroad. All the blogs are available at The Everest Files website and we will be posting a selection of them here.

 

A LOAD TOO FAR 

 

EVEREST PORTER! THE WORST JOB IN THE WORLD? 

The trail to Everest Base Camp is a long and hard trek. Even experienced mountaineers find it a challenge to carry an average rucksack (weighing perhaps 20kg) up and down the valley walls that separate each day’s destination. 
 
A daily trek can easily be six to eight hours and the air gets thinner and thinner the higher you go. 
 
Think that’s tough? Think again! It’s nothing compared to the loads that Everest porters carry. 
 
These are the hard men of the Himalaya. They are mostly young (from eighteen to twenty-five), from poor villages all over Nepal. They often carry in excess of 100 kg on their backs! And some of them only weigh fifty or sixty kg themselves so they are carrying twice their own bodyweight. Imagine carrying two of your friends on your back for hour after hour after hour ... up a huge hill! 
 
For each kilogram they are paid just twenty Nepali rupees for a two day trek between villages. That makes a reward of just fifteen to twenty UK pounds for two days of arduous work, often in cold and wet conditions with inadequate clothing as protection. Often they sleep on the floor in teahouses to save money. They have little access to medical care. 
 
It’s back breaking work. Literally. Many of these porters end up with spinal problems and crippling joint conditions which can last a lifetime. 
 
Reputable western tour operators are doing their bit to try to make things better. They subscribe to the work of organisations such as Porters Progress, The International Porter Protection Group and the Himalayan Rescue Association. 
 
The problem is a deep one. Nepal is a poor country. Many uneducated young men have hardly any opportunities to earn money. Many of them reject attempts to restrict the size of their loads because it reduces their earning power. So long as wealthy trekkers and climbers come to the Everest region it seems porters will always be attracted by the work on offer. 

A porter carries a typical big load across a suspension bridge. © Matt Dickinson

A porter carries a huge metal boiler weighing over 100 kilos. © Matt Dickinson

A porter arrives at base camp with a heavy and cumbersome load. © Matt Dickinson 

Namche Bazar, a major destination for porters because it has no road connection. © Matt Dickinson  

Sometimes yaks are available to carry loads. © Matt Dickinson

A seventeen-year-old porter carries three huge barrels on his back for eight hours a day to reach Base Camp. © Matt Dickinson 

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