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.
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.
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.