Grayson Schaffer finds that few Westerners appreciate just how dangerous it is to be a Sherpa:
According to the Himalayan Database, which keeps track of such things, 174 climbing Sherpas have died while working in the mountains in Nepal—15 in the past decade on Everest alone (see sidebar for a country-by-country comparison). During that time, at least as many Sherpas were disabled by rockfall, frostbite, and altitude-related illnesses like stroke and edema. A Sherpa working above Base Camp on Everest is nearly ten times more likely to die than a commercial fisherman—the profession the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rates as the most dangerous nonmilitary job in the U.S.—and more than three and a half times as likely to perish than an infantryman during the first four years of the Iraq war. As a dice roll for someone paying to reach the summit, the dangers of climbing can perhaps be rationalized. But as a workplace safety statistic, 1.2 percent mortality is outrageous. There’s no other service industry in the world that so frequently kills and maims its workers for the benefit of paying clients.
(Photo: A Nepalese Sherpa collects garbage at an altitude of 26,200 feet during a May 2010 clean-up expedition at Mount Everest. A team of 20 Nepalese climbers collected 4,000 pounds of rubbish during the high-risk operation. By Namgyal Sherpa /AFP/Getty Images)