(CNN) It might not seem that way when you read harrowing accounts of climbers perishing on its treacherous slopes, but there's an easy way to climb Everest, and there's a hard way.
Nate Menninger, a young adventurer from Boston, definitely took the hard way.
Rather than hike up the world's tallest peak, like most trekkers, with the support of an organized climbing outfit, the 26-year-old decided to take a job as one of the first ever non-native Everest porters.
That meant being paid $15 a day for hauling gigantic packs weighing up to 220 pounds (100 kilograms) along rugged, high altitude trails, huddling with fellow porters in freezing huts at night for rest and sharing their basic rations.
Along the way, he made a film about his experiences, which he hopes will shine a light on the largely unsung work of Everest porters and the precarious way they eke out a living in one of the planet's toughest environments.
In 2019, Nate Menninger became one of the first foreign-born porters on Mount Everest.
Menninger came up with his idea to become a porter after spending a season working as a guide in Nepal, teaching himself Nepalese and becoming fascinated with the work and lives of these human hauliers.
Equally fascinated by Everest, but unable to afford the tens of thousands of dollars needed to cover the cost of the permit and support needed to reach the summit, he hit upon an idea to climb it for free.
"When I was guiding that summer, I saw how porters lived for the first time," he tells CNN Travel. "I saw them sleeping on the floor. I saw how they ate, and how strong they were.
"And I realized if I climbed Everest as a porter, I wouldn't have to pay $65,000. I would actually get paid to climb Everest.
"That was the only feasible way I could attempt the mountain at the age I was."
Menninger eventually scaled back his original plan to reach the top of Everest, settling for making a film about his time among the porters on the still arduous 11-day hike from the town of Lukla, at 9,400 feet above sea level, to Everest Base Camp.
"My goal was to have the exact same experience as the porters no matter what," he explains. "I wanted to see if I could handle what it's like to have this job and if I could be as strong as a porter has to be."
His grueling experience is chronicled in the hour-long documentary "The Porter."
Physically demanding work
Porters are required to carry packs, known as badis, to supply the region with necessities.
The physical and emotional toll of the job is laid bare as Menninger is captured struggling with the weight of a pack that consisted of multiple bags lashed together, then trying to sleep at night in crowded porter houses.
Subsisting mainly on a diet of rice with lentils, he lost over 20 pounds over the course of the expedition and didn't shower for more than three weeks.
Menninger says he tried to fully embed himself into the lives of the porters, but accepts his experiences only scratched the surface.
"It's not a sight you see a lot over there," he explains. "I tried to take the worst scenario possible every time. If the other porters were sleeping on the floor, I wanted to sleep on the floor.
"I just wanted to be another guy in the room while people were doing their thing."
It wasn't just his appearance -- a muscular six-foot-plus that towered over his Nepalese colleagues -- that set him apart. It was also the temporary nature of his new job.
"I had a very different experience than a normal porter would because I was just coming in for one trip," he says. "It was just a snapshot. I wasn't really relying on the money.
"And in terms of everything that they go through, I'm just experiencing a fraction of the emotion and the physical output."
A typical day would involve waking up at around 7:30 a.m. and going to the client's hotel to collect their bags, before tying the bags together and beginning to trek.
"One porter carries two clients' bags, that's how it works," he says. "You move very quickly. Most of the day, you're looking down."
Menninger hauled packs conisting of multiple bags lashed together.
Babin Dulal/'The Porter'
Porters have to pay for their own food and accommodation during expeditions, and Menninger says some regularly forgo meals in order to keep costs down.
"If you want to survive, you have to try to save the money you spend on food," he says. "One porter would cut his rations in half. He would eat half meals to save money."
While working an expedition, porters will spend around $7 a day on food and housing, and the charges rise the further up the mountain they go.
"By the end your costs are over $20, so you're actually losing money while you're working," he says. "So you really rely on tips."
As porters aren't tipped until day 11, they essentially have no idea whether the expedition has been financially worthwhile until they've more or less completed it.
Menninger made $15 a day during his 11-day expedition and he and his fellow porters, who mostly hail from villages near Base Camp, received a $100 tip each.
Menninger visibly struggled with his load during the filming.
Babin Dulal/'The Porter'
"Some people tip well, some don't," he says. "At that point it's just the luck of the draw, whether you make $500 dollars or $50. It just depends on your expedition."
They receive their tip on the final evening of the expedition, but work a 12th day "pro bono" to escort the climbers to the airport.
"Then the next day, or maybe a few days later you'll go on another expedition," he adds. "And you could do that five or six times in a season back to back."
Since returning to the United States last year, Menninger has remained in contact with the porters he worked with during his time at Everest.
He admits to being apprehensive about showing his former colleagues the completed film.
"It was very nerve wracking," he says. "I was very, very worried about what they'd say, because it was [showing] their job on an international scale. But they said it wasn't tough enough."
Menninger's experiences on Everest are documented in the film "The Porter."
The mountaineering industry that surrounds Everest has been under added scrutiny after 2019 was plagued by overcrowding, with climbers becoming stuck in a queue to the summit, above the peak's highest camp at 26,247 feet.
Adding to the problems, says Menninger, is a lack of communication between the porters and their mostly wealthy clients.
"The guides speak a little bit, but porters don't really speak to their clients at all and clients don't speak to their porters.
"So there's no cultural exchange. Usually with traveling, you go somewhere to learn more. To meet other people and exchange ideas."
He's seen the divide between locals and tourists first hand, and believes the lack of communication has created many issues.
"There's this separation between our mountain and their mountain," he continues.
"Their trash and our trash. It's a terrible way to treat the situation."
While he's loath to tell potential climbers what a good or a bad tip is, Menninger wishes more were aware of how much porters rely on the money due to their low salaries, as well as how much workers contribute to the overall Everest experience.
"The people that live there make everything possible," he says. "Even if you go and don't have a porter and just carry your own bags.
"Everything you enjoy, the hotel, the restaurant. Everything has pretty much been carried by a porter at some point.
"So whether you are using a porter or not, you're benefiting from their work. So make sure you talk to your porter. Find out how much they're making. Ask and be curious."
Menninger says he was "very humbled" by his experiences with the porters, particularly as someone from a relatively wealthy background, and hopes his film will elevate the porters of Everest by demonstrating what they're able to endure and how hard they work.
"Even if you go to Everest, you will not see where your porters sleep. The movie is the first time you'd see this.
"I wanted to show that these people were strong, proud and powerful and that anyone can have pride in any job in the world," he adds.
Read the rest here:
- World Travel Holdings Offering Up to $1 Million in Commercial Loans to its Network of Travel Agency Franchise Owners as Part of a Financial Assistance... - February 17th, 2021
- World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, Anthony Bourdains last, posthumous book, to be released on April 20 - Yahoo Lifestyle - February 17th, 2021
- Anthony Bourdains Posthumous Travel Guide Will Be Available This Spring - Delish - February 17th, 2021
- Steamboat cross-country skiers travel to closed-down Finland for World Junior Championships - Steamboat Pilot and Today - February 17th, 2021
- Showing Girls the World With Travel, Service & Media - WMUK - February 17th, 2021
- Travel The World With Wine, No Passport Necessary: New Zealand Edition - Forbes - February 17th, 2021
- Apples official World Travel Adapter Kit returns to Amazon low of $25 - 9to5Toys - February 17th, 2021
- Colombia was accepted into the World Travel and Tourism Council - Travel Daily News International - February 17th, 2021
- Uzakrota Global Travel Awards has announced the global winners for the Travel and Tourism industry - 2020 - Travel Daily News International - February 17th, 2021
- Animal Crossing Players Are Using Gulliver Items in SUPER Creative Builds - CBR - Comic Book Resources - February 17th, 2021
- Around the world with Ryan Jacobson: Westerly native's travel memoir takes readers to 12 countries - The Westerly Sun - February 17th, 2021
- Leisure Travel Market: What most excites you about the possibilities/opportunities hidden within industrial data? KSU | The Sentinel Newspaper - KSU... - February 17th, 2021
- The age of the wheelie-bag - What will travel look like after the pandemic? | Special report - The Economist - February 17th, 2021
- Hope on the horizon: Global tourism body calls for end to travel bans - The South African - February 17th, 2021
- ITB Berlin NOW: Tours and activities as a way out of the crisis - Travel Daily News International - February 17th, 2021
- One Billion Fewer International Arrivals Make 2020 Worst Year in Tourism Industry - SchengenVisaInfo.com - SchengenVisaInfo.com - February 10th, 2021
- International Tourism back to 48%, 74% or 96% in 2023? - eTurboNews | Trends | Travel News - February 10th, 2021
- The Nevisian Kiss on the Island of Love - eTurboNews | Trends | Travel News - February 10th, 2021
- Will Vaccines Be Required in Cruising and How Will that Impact Sales? - Travel Agent - February 10th, 2021
- Disjointed restrictions are tripping up a travel recovery and it may be getting worse - The Dallas Morning News - February 10th, 2021
- WTTC Says Governments Should Abandon The Concept Of 'High-Risk Countries' And Instead Focus On 'High-Risk Travellers' - Hospitality Net - February 10th, 2021
- Travel in a "Post-Covid-19" World and How Businesses are Preparing for it - ChicagoNow - February 10th, 2021
- CHTA: Economic Survival Tied to Health Safety and Responsible Tourism - Travel Agent - February 10th, 2021
- 53 Black founders and investors to watch in 2021 - PitchBook News & Analysis - February 10th, 2021
- The biggest post-pandemic challenge in travel - Travel Weekly - February 10th, 2021
- Sharify makes it super simple to rediscover your citys social side - TechCrunch - February 10th, 2021
- Universal teams with Big Hit and YG Entertainment to invest in global live-streaming platform - Music Business Worldwide - February 10th, 2021
- Around the globe, virus cancels spring travel for millions - The Associated Press - February 10th, 2021
- The Langham Hotels in the US and UK get top recognition - Travel & Tourism News Middle East - February 10th, 2021
- Salesforce declares the 9-to-5 workday dead, will let some employees work remotely from now on - The Verge - February 10th, 2021
- Hotel openings around the world, Travel News & Top Stories - The Straits Times - January 5th, 2021
- 16 Really Good Things That Happened in the Travel World in 2020 - Hospitality Net - January 5th, 2021
- A Mass. beach just ranked among the top 25 island beaches in the world - Boston.com - January 5th, 2021
- Jim Cramer: 10 Investment Themes I Like in 2021 - RealMoney - January 5th, 2021
- Travel 2021: What will be on the itinerary once vaccination opens up the world? - The Financial Express - January 5th, 2021
- Travel to New Zealand during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go - CNN - January 5th, 2021
- Playing the Green Lottery: Life Inside Colombias Emerald Mines - The New York Times - January 5th, 2021
- Traveling to Spain during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go - CNN - January 5th, 2021
- How four of this year's Transformers helped the world's biggest banks surviveand thrive... - Business Insider - Business Insider - January 5th, 2021
- Travel to Antarctica during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go - CNN - January 5th, 2021
- The cauldrons of gold theory of media and startups - TechCrunch - January 5th, 2021
- Tracing the steps of a fantastic voyage, part 2 - SF Gate - January 5th, 2021
- Discovery+ enters the streaming wars with a big bet on reality TV - CNBC - January 5th, 2021
- Epic Games buys enormous shopping mall, will convert it to global HQ - Polygon - January 5th, 2021
- Where the President Got His Lies About Georgia - Slate - January 5th, 2021
- World War 3: Israel told dont underestimate Irans weapons as tensions soar - Daily Express - December 5th, 2020
- China branded 'greatest threat to democracy and freedom since WW2 by US spy chief - Daily Express - December 5th, 2020
- China THREAT as US intelligence chief warns Bidens team targeted amid trade tensions - Daily Express - December 5th, 2020
- Boris must act now before its too late! Navy chief calls for UK to stand up to China - Express - December 5th, 2020
- Ivanka Trump blasted over India intervention as POTUS set to leave White House - Daily Express - December 5th, 2020
- SAIS students from around the world travel to Italy for in-person instruction - The Hub at Johns Hopkins - October 29th, 2020
- New World, New Duties: Creating Tomorrows Travel, Today - Worth - October 29th, 2020
- These destinations were overwhelmed by tourists. Here's how they're doing now - CNN - October 29th, 2020
- Villas of Distinction Recognized with Cond Nast Traveler's 2020 Readers' Choice Award in Villas Category - Benzinga - October 29th, 2020
- Trending Now: Sports Tourism Market Share, Growth, Demand, Trends, Region Wise Analysis of Top Players and Forecasts - Aerospace Journal - October 29th, 2020
- Where Wes Anderson films 'accidentally' come to life - The Guardian - October 29th, 2020
- Beachfront Residences at The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort Open November 1 - Luxury Travel Advisor - October 29th, 2020
- Tourism and Agriculture Market 2020 Trends, Market Share, Industry Size, Growth, Sales, Opportunities, Analysis and Forecast To 2025 - TechnoWeekly - October 29th, 2020
- Impact of Covid-19 on the Hospitality, Travel, and Leisure Sector - Programming Insider - October 29th, 2020
- Africas year of zero: a special report on the future of wildlife tourism - Financial Times - October 29th, 2020
- Coronavirus: Is self-catering the best option? - World First Travel Insurance - October 29th, 2020
- From Lusaka to the world: why travel holds the key to economic recovery - themastonline.com - October 29th, 2020
- TCS World Travel Announces Dates for Its First All-Inclusive Luxury Expeditions On Ground-Breaking New Airbus A321neo Private Jet - Business Wire - October 14th, 2020
- Hacienda Tres Ros is a Strong Candidate in Three 2020 World Travel Awards Categories - PR Web - October 14th, 2020
- Peru, Bahamas and Puerto Rico Added to WTTC's Safe Travels List - TravelPulse - October 14th, 2020
- Maldives bags 8 nominations at World Travel Awards - The Edition - October 14th, 2020
- Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) And World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE) Announce They Will Bring the Industry Together in Hamburg... - October 14th, 2020
- WTTC has a plan to save the travel sector - Travel Weekly - October 14th, 2020
- Short's Travel Signs with Deem to Offer An Additional Travel Booking Solution for Clients - GlobeNewswire - October 14th, 2020
- Travel insurance proposition enhanced by Zurich - ITIJ - October 14th, 2020
- The world's busiest airports -- and how far they've fallen - CNN - October 14th, 2020
- This is why travel will be better post-pandemic - Traveller - October 14th, 2020
- Is cow hugging the world's new wellness trend? - BBC News - October 14th, 2020
- Disney World attendance to stay capped; Disneyland reopening 'not much of a negotiation,' CEO says - USA TODAY - October 14th, 2020
- Author and World Traveler Illustrates Exploration of Europe and the Challenges he Faced in New Book - GlobeNewswire - October 14th, 2020
- Travel Alert: Covid-19 Cases Are Back To July Levels, And Rising Fast - Forbes - October 14th, 2020
- Expedia Modernized Operations on One of the World's Fastest-Moving IT Stacks - GlobeNewswire - October 14th, 2020
- Impact Of Covid-19 on Experiential Travels Market 2020 Industry Challenges, Business Overview and Forecast Research Study 2026 - PRnews Leader - October 14th, 2020
- How One Travel Advisor Gets Creative to Stay Engaged with Clients - Travel Market Report - October 14th, 2020
- New York City named one of world's top ten best walking cities - Travel Daily - October 14th, 2020