A Sherpa once saved the life of Basalt photographer Pete McBride while he was working on an assignment at Mount Everest. Now he feels the least he can do is to help raise funds for the Sherpa community after their devastating loss from an avalanche earlier this month.
McBride is one of a dozen photographers who are making special signed prints available for $100 as part of an effort called, “For Our Sherpa Friends.” The prints can be found at www.sherpasfund.org. The fundraising effort goes through Wednesday.
“There’s a group of us that has been working in the Himalaya and depending on Sherpa,” McBride said in an interview at his Basalt home Monday. They conversed about what they could do to help and came up with the idea of the fundraiser with their photos, all from the Himalaya, though not all on Everest.
One of the photographs that McBride is using for the fundraiser is a stunning shot of a lone climber descending the “Valley of Silence” at the 22,000-foot level of the Khumbu Icefall on Everest’s south side. On his Facebook page, McBride explained that he took photographs for a story on the “Ice Doctors,” who build the route of ladders and ropes to help provide climbers with safe passage between 18,000 and 21,000 feet.
Soon after he took the shot, McBride fell into a crevasse and barely caught himself from sliding into the abyss. Mingma Sherpa “plucked” him out, laughed nonchalantly and went back to work, McBride said. The bottom of the crevasse wasn’t visible so the incident shook McBride to his core.
Working on the story gave him a greater appreciation of the Sherpa and the daily, under-appreciated effort they put in, he said. “They do all the heavy lifting on Everest, realistically and symbolically,” he said.
After an April 18 avalanche killed 16 Sherpa and injured others, McBride learned, both via Facebook and texts with buddies, that other photographers wanted to try to help in some meaningful way. The group of photographers includes “Outside’s” Grayson Schaffer and “National Geographic’s” Aaron Huey as well as Jimmy Chin, James Balog, Cory Richards, Renan Ozturk, Teru Kuwayama, Pete McBride, Gordon Wiltsie, Andy Bardon, Robb Kendrick and Max Lowe.
The 6-by-6-inch prints all are sold for $100. All of the proceeds after shipping and printing will go to the Sherpa community. McBride estimated that 85 cents of every dollar would go to the Sherpa. The funds will be distributed through the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation, which has worked with Sherpa in the Khumbu region since 2003.
“By purchasing a print today, you are helping provide relief to Sherpa families in crisis, as well as long-term support that transcends this single incident,” the photographers’ website says. “Together, we will build a more comprehensive safety net for the high-altitude workers who help so many Westerners realize their dreams of the summit.”
Word of the photographer’s fundraising effort has gone viral via social media. “Our goal was to reach $100,000,” McBride said. “We’re now at $225,000. It’s looking like we’re going to hit $300,000.”
The photographers collectively will sell and sign close to 3,000 photos.
“They do all the heavy lifting on Everest, realistically and symbolically.”
Pete McBride, photographer