Tag Archives: 2014

FILM REVIEW: Sherpa

Ever since Edmund Hilary and Tensing Norgay’s triumphant ascent of the world’s highest peak in 1953, climbers from all over the planet have descended upon Nepal in order to pit their wits and test their mettle in the Himalayas; climbing Everest, rightly or wrongly, still considered by most to be the ultimate challenge.
Thousands of dollars are parted with for technologically advanced, highly organised and increasingly pampered expeditions with one goal – to summit Everest. One thing is for sure, climbing Everest, Sagarmāthā or Chomolungma – call it what you will – without the presence of the ever industrious, unflappable and above all good-natured Sherpas, would render many a self-indulgent, Western mountaineering dream, impossible.
Of course, the world’s perception of Sherpas is potentially a very one dimensional view and Sherpa is a documentary that sets about re-addressing pre-conceptions, to unearth more about their lives, their families, spiritual beliefs and concerns and to discover exactly who these unsung heroes of the mountains really are.
Veteran climber and expedition co-ordinator, Russell Brice, has been organising climbing ascents on Everest for many a long season now and it’s through him, and his driven, moneyed clientele, that the at times incendiary events of the last few years are explored and explained.
Speaking from the present day, it’s fair to say that the Himalayan mountaineering landscape has now shifted immeasurably following the events of the last few years, a shift that was both predicted and feared for quite some time before by Brice, it should be said.
Not even he could have anticipated the scale of the devastation though that has been unleashed upon the Sherpa and mountaineering community alike in recent times. Two major avalanches in 2014 (killing 16 Sherpas), and 2015 (triggered by the Nepalese earthquake, killing at least 22 people, many of whom were Sherpas), have brought on a major re-evaluation by the Sherpas with regard to their role, their working conditions and the unfair renumeration and compensation packages for which they risk their lives, daily.
There’s no doubt that climbing Everest has become a major industry over the last 20-30 years, with routes, particularly on its southern face, frequently log-jammed with large parties of climbers, all of whom have parted with small fortunes for an opportunity to summit its peak, none of whom would be able to do so without the dedicated preparatory work of Sherpas in fixing ropes, ladders and lines.
Unsurprisingly, only a paltry proportion of the vast amounts of money that the Everest industry generates finds its way into Sherpa pockets. A combination of this injustice, the two aforementioned devastating avalanches and tempers having become frayed during the previous climbing season when Western climbers were perceived to have shown a lack of respect on the mountain, and everything is suddenly brought to a head with Sherpas threatening to down tools until their, by now crudely unionised, demands are met.
Significantly, the Nepalese government sees no problem with the then status quo, but it’s a scenario which seriously threatens to de-rail the entire Himalayan mountaineering industry.
In these times of mass, global Capitalism and the subsequent exploitation of native people the world over, Sherpa is a documentary that provides ample food for thought.
Perhaps most interesting of all is the film’s ability to pin-point Western climbers’ shifting attitudes towards Sherpas in light of the fast changing, increasingly politicised climbing climate in which they now find themselves.
A people that once were perceived to be smiling, duly obedient and largely sub-servant are suddenly demanding some level of equality and the climbing community seems somewhat split in its ability to come to terms with this, particularly with livelihoods and ‘Western dreams’ affected.
Majestic, sweeping shots across the breathtaking Himalayan mountain range, explosive and at times incredibly tense, real footage of altercations and mother nature’s fury, all combined with the politics and commentary from those directly affected by the events of chaotic climbing seasons of recent times, has resulted in one of the very best documentaries of the year and should not be missed.
Exhilarating!
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WAYWARD WOLF: COMMENT: The Shakespeare Half Marathon 2014

Shakespeare Half Medal

Well, that was highly enjoyable and another excellent effort from the Rotary Club of Stratford-Upon-Avon for this, one of my very favourite half marathons in the running calendar, this year commemorating the would-be 450th birthday of William Shakespeare.

Perfect conditions (for the runners at least) prevailed with overcast skies, a light breeze and occasional ‘spits’ of rain, so there could be no complaints for those runners seeking a good time and… a good time.

Talking of which…

One of these days, I’ll put together a training schedule and actually stick to it; post winter malaise has been severe this year, but I had enough in the tank today to just sneak inside my previous best time, set, strangely enough, some years back on this very course, with a new personal best of 1:47:18*

*Unconfirmed officially yet, but there or thereabouts.

I’ve not run this course for a few years now and a few things have changed since last I was here. The start has moved to Church street and the finish threw me a little, taking a slightly different route through the park, but still very much the same, enjoyable course around the town and the surrounding, undulating  countryside.

Finally, two big thank yous:

Firstly, to Tina and Gary Taylor and their very excellent bed and breakfast ‘First-Night’ in Stratford-Upon-Avon. I’ve been staying there for years now and they always go out of their way to make sure everything is just as YOU need it. A 7am breakfast, especially for race day was a lovely touch and above and beyond the call of duty. Thank you Tina!

http://www.first-night.co.uk

Secondly, a big thanks to Mick and Phil who took pity on this shivering Londoner as I made my way into town early this morning giving me a lift in their van to the race start area.

For those unaware, Mick and Phil are the awe-inspiring, Dad and Son marathon running team from Stratford-Upon-Avon. Phil is disabled and Mick runs each course, pushing Phil’s wheelchair. I’ve encountered them on a few occasions (often as they’ve passed me en route, mid-run!) They’re an inspiration to us all, Find out more at:

http://micknphil-marathonlads.com/

Incidentally, Shakespeare himself crossed the line today in 2 hours, 11 minutes or so, or at least someone dressed in Elizabethan regalia vaguely resembling him did; it was hard to tell though, he had a hat on.

Wonderful occasion. Wonderful day.