Everest 2012: Back to Higher Places – Return to Base Camp

Everest Base Camp by night. Photograph by Max Lowe

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.

A mere day after arriving in Kathmandu I learned I was to return to Everest Base Camp. Climber, photographer, and friend Cory Richards, who had been set to climb the West Ridge of Everest with my father Conrad, had been pulled from the climb for health reasons. Andy Bardon, his assistant, had stepped up to help out, and an extra hand was needed managing media assets and shooting around Base Camp. A golden opportunity had fallen in my lap, and I was on a flight back to Lukla the following morning at 5 a.m.

The helicopter pilots from Fishtail Air wear oxygen while flying up around Everest Base Camp. Photograph by Max Lowe

When I first traveled up the Khumbu with the expedition, I had taken almost a week and a half to reach Base Camp including acclimatizing days. With a little help from Jiban our trip organizer, I was able to secure a seat in a helicopter flying up valley. Terrain that had taken me so many days to cross disappeared behind us in minutes. Seeing the peaks I had looked up at for so many weeks from the vantage of the air was like looking at a new landscape.

Pertemba poses in front of his camp and the ice fall. Photograph by Max Lowe

Back in Base Camp, I jumped right into work with Andy and Sadie Quarrier around camp; helping organize the mountain of images telling the story of the expedition and adding to it. Even though I had left some interviews and people to find in Katmandu for the moment, Base Camp provided one individual who furnished some great insights into the changing cultural landscape of the Himalaya. Pertemba Sherpa, now 64 and still leading treks and expeditions into the high Himalaya, has started a non-profit to support preservation of Sherpa heritage and culture. He has safeguarded his childhood home in Khumjung from development, built by his great grandparents 200 years ago, to remain as a heritage site. He has done so to exhibit the younger generation of his people as well as tourists how far life has come in this region.


  1. Fredric Ciner
    May 16, 2012, 3:21 pm

    It must be truly amazing up there. I am in awe.

  2. charles baer
    United States
    May 16, 2012, 6:33 pm

    ah yeah

  3. Jennifer Read
    Bozeman, MT
    May 16, 2012, 10:40 pm

    Max, please send my very best to Pertemba. He is an old friend of mine!

  4. Preston
    Salt Lake City, UT
    May 17, 2012, 3:11 am

    Max! This is the coolest trip to read about, I wish I could catch a flight and come visit. My family all love your posts and send you their best wishes.

  5. robin
    May 18, 2012, 10:22 am

    Hey!! Good Job!!! So I assume you won’t be back for awhile to work!! Hahaha. Keep up the good work Max, We are all super proud of you at your favorite restaurant, The Emerson Grill!
    Love, Your Homies

  6. brody
    chesterland, ohio
    May 27, 2012, 9:32 am

    great pictures AND writing.

  7. Surendra Adhikari
    March 30, 2014, 6:06 am

    Everest Three Pass Trek is considered as one of the convincing trek for the determined trekkers aiming to channel the high passes without an obligation to some mechanical mountaineering. Three Pass Trek tenders the lasting skill of natural beauty, environmental glory and thoughtful cross-cultural innovation. The Sherpa inhabitants of Khumbu, the great valley underneath Mount Everest, suppose that all things – mountains, plants and animals are the blessings of Three Pass Trek. – See more at: http://www.aboutnepaltreks.com