Max Lowe received a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant to document social change in Nepal’s Khumbu region alongside our 2012 Everest Expedition. The expedition is being covered live on the National Geographic magazine May edition iPad app.
After returning from the frigid heights of Gokyo and the Renjo La Pass, I was to spend a week more in Namche Bazar and the surrounding cities of Kunde and Khumjung doing some follow-up interviews and shooting a few more portraits. Returning to the warm welcome of my Sherpa family at the Panorama Lodge felt like coming home. Good food, wonderful people, and a warm bed are paramount when returning from ten days trekking solo through the mountains.
After several days of catching up on photo work, interviewing several of the younger locals about their past and future plans, and eating far too much Dhal Bhat (rice and lentils), I was back into the swing of Namche life. Mid-week I was elated to receive an invitation from Sherab and Lhakpa to join them at a naming celebration for a newborn baby of Sherab’s niece. After packing up a gifts of beer for the family and a new baby blue outfit for the little one (to be named Dawa Ongel), we made our way to the party. Any Sherpa celebration is a big deal, with every obscure family member involved. The lodge was filled with 50 to 60 Sherpa men and women all in ethnic garb. For the woman, this means long, colorful dresses and fur-lined hats. For the men, it’s cloaks and cowboy hats (introduced by Westerns in the 50s). Eating and drinking ensued along with a blessing and the gifting of Khata scarfs and monetary offerings from all attending to the new parents.
Next I’m going to talk with Dr. Kami, one of the first Sherpa doctors in the Khumbu and the head physician at the Khunde hospital, to get his views and opinions on how life has changed in the region with the introduction of modern medicine. Then I’ll head down to Lukla in a few days to fly back to Kathmandu. I am going to miss being in the mountains and spending time with these wonderful people that inhabit them.