We are unlikely ever to tire of the spectacle of Everest as pure wilderness, even if, before the terrible events of May, tales of adventure tourists crowding the mountain were becoming more and more common. The Everest captured so vividly in Australian filmmaker Jennifer Peedom’s superb Sherpa is one of awesome beauty, but it is also one teeming with chaotic human activity.
In 2013 news channels around the world reported that Sherpa guides had turned angrily on European climbers on Everest. Wanting to know what had driven the famously obliging Sherpas to such action, Peedom, already an experienced filmmaker in the Himalayas, set out to film the 2014 climbing season. Her film crew embedded with a commercial expedition operated by Himalayan veteran Kiwi Russell Brice. The 25 Sherpas in his team carry equipment and ensure the safety of clients who might pay up to $75,000 for the experience. At the heart of this film is Brice’s Sherpa leader Phurba Tashi, about to attempt to summit Everest for the 22nd time.
Then, in April 2014, a 14 million ton block of ice crashed down and killed 16 Sherpas as they worked on the climbing route through the Khumbu Icefall. Having acquainted us, before this tragedy, with the candid viewpoints of Phurba and his team, Brice and his clients, and numerous other denizens of the mountain, Peedom captures the dramatic reappraisals that follow, with equal candour. Unforgettably, we watch as the Sherpas, facing fierce opposition and blatant misrepresentation, defy the dictates of ‘commercial reality’ and unite to restore order to their mountain.