"How can a porter carry so much weight?", was my question after seeing in real time before my eyes how those man can go up and down the steep Himalayan mountains, carrying sometimes more than their own body weight.
Jhalak answered saying that they were used to it. "Sometimes when the weight is too much the neck becomes soared, but we stop and rest and then we go again." he said.
Mountains are harsh environments, and in many remote locations roads can't be found, so the dokos (bamboo baskets), are used by locals to carry goods like grains, vegetables, water pots and even small animals. Adaptation happens due to a lifetime of carrying loads up and down the steep Himallayn hills.
Because of their particular traits and resilience, porters have a big, and sometimes unrecognized, role on mountaneering history. Their help is beyhond essential in big ascends to mounts like Everest (Chomolungma), K2 in Pakistan, and others 8000m giants. They are responsible for carrying the camping gear, montaineers belongings, set the base camps, and after a long day of acending, sometimes carrying as much as their own body weight, even cook!
As the mountain race substantially grew during the years, a job as a porter became a source of income for sherpas (the biggest ethnic majority of porters) and their families. But if in one hand mountaineering tourism could help to sustain families, on the other it poses another problem: when a porter looses its life on the job, the family is being left helpless without support and with few or no means to get by. Also, sometimes there is no other option than choosing a porter job in one of the world's poorest countries. A good part of them do so in order to be able to send their kids to school so they can have a different future.
Untill today, many lost their lives in the mountains, often in ways that could be avoided. In a colonialized quest for the 8000m peaks, sherpas were thrown to the job with little to no knowledge about mountaneeirng technical aspects, resulting in unfortunate human losses.
It is not always like that, and many agencies now already take action offering trainning to their sherpas, and NGO's mobilize every means they can to help families that lost their fathers, husbands and sons.
The mountaneering industry can offer as much as it can take, and we should always question what are the reasons behind a climb, and the way it is being lead. Making history should be more about cohoperation, sharing and growth than greed, fame and individualism.
For now I'll jut keep on wondering how remarkable human bodies can be, bearing what we most times think is unbearable, going through death and coming back alive!