When disaster struck at Mount Everest in 2014, the unprecedented avalanche killed 16 Sherpas although it left dozens of rich Western climbers untouched. Mourning has evolved into a Sherpa strike, with deep tensions that were bubbling under the surface erupting after more than half a century.
Unsung hero Tenzing Norgay and well-known Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary reached Everest’s summit together in 1953. The global celebration of Hillary, up until this year’s film, showed that it is usually the white guys that get all the credit.
Director and climber Jennifer Peedom began filming her documentary in 2013 to tell the Sherpas’ story. The Sherpas are the local guides that gives company to tourists when it comes to climbing the Mount Everest and other Himalayan trekking.
A year later, during the film’s production, the filmmakers suddenly found that they were documenting the aftermath of what had become the worst tragedy in Everest’s history: on the morning of 18th April 2014, 31 million pounds of ice crashed down on the climbing route through the treacherous Khumbu icefall, killing 16 Sherpas.
From that point on, the film evolved into a story of how the Sherpas are now united in pain and anger, forcing the closure of Everest for the rest of the season. “It was hugely emotional, particularly going to meet the widows,” says Peedom. “There were some excruciating moments.”
Without Sherpa mountain guides, there is no way in which Westerners can reach the top of Everest. The Sherpas know the ropes and fixing points, in addition to bringing their oxygen tanks, their tents, their food and their toilet.