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Fighting back against Mount Everest's killer avalanche: Photographers band together to help Sherpas

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Everest turned into a deadly scene earlier this month. Courtesy of Adventure Travel

Talk about interconnected-ness, here’s another example of what Winnie Burkett meant when she was talking about birds, the natural world and interconnection.

After the avalanche on Mount Everest that killed 16 Sherpas, 10 photographers from National Geographic magazine, buddied together and came up with a way to help provide relief to the Sherpa families. They’re offering 21 high-quality photos taken in the Himalayas for sale at $100 each online. The sale goes through Sunday evening. (To view the photos on sale, click here.)

One hundred percent of proceeds from this sale (after the cost of printing) will go to the Sherpa community via the nonprofit Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation, which has been working with Sherpa climbers in the Khumbu since 2003.

For all 10 National Geographic photographers, the Sherpa connection runs deep. Most especially, for photographer, Robb Kendrick, a native Texan.

 On this 1991 assent, they weren’t serving anyone else. They were doing the climb for themselves. 

Robb’s first story for National Geographic was on the Sherpas. In 1991, Robb was up in the Khumbu region of the Himalayas (where the Sherpas are concentrated) to photographer the first all-Sherpa assent of Mount Everest.  Before this expedition, the Sherpas had only gone on ascents of Everest as assistants, scouts, leads, etc. for foreign expeditions — often from the United States or Europe.

On this 1991 assent, they weren’t serving anyone else. They were doing the climb for themselves.

Robb spent five months among the Sherpas and made lots of connections among the community. He stayed a good chunk of the time in the home of his interpreter, sleeping in the family’s Buddhist chapel (all true to form in the way Robb works).

One unique aspect of the Sherpa homes is that the livestock live on the bottom floor and the people on the second floor (helps provide more heat). Robb attended many Sherpa ceremonies and rituals, visited monasteries and homes and spent time at Everest base camp (17,598 feet altitude). He even climbed into the Khumbu Icefall, which is where the avalanche accident occurred on April 18.

While Robb is entirely fit and seemingly, fearless in the natural world, he will tell you that the Khumbu Icefall is scary. It’s often considered the most dangerous part of the climb. In one of his photographs offered in the sale, Yak Train, a Sherpa guides pack animals across a frozen stream in Nepal’s Khumba Valley.

The photographs speak for themselves but I enjoyed reading about the fund too. Especially, the words at the very top . . . For Our Sherpa Friends.

Editor's Note: Jeannie Ralston contributed to this story.

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