Not a mountain in sight, here.

Not a mountain in sight, here.

I don’t think I saw this anywhere else but on Instagram.

I follow the National Geographic account there, just for fun. I love the casual photojournalism. I love that these photographers, who I now know by name and photographic subjects, post pics of iPhone shots, or outtakes from the magazine. I love the personal touches, the I was feeling this when I captured this shot, the sometimes imperfectness of it all.

One week ago, Pete McBride posted a photo of a climber and said this…

A climber is dwarfed by towers of frozen debris on Everest’s Khumbu Ice Fall, one of the most dangerous regions on the mountain’s south side. Every spring climbing season, a small team of Sherpa build the route through this perilous zone that stretches between 18,000 and 20,000 feet. While most climbers try to limit their exposure in this jungle of crashing glacier, these Sherpa known as the ‘Ice Doctors’ go up and down every other day for 2 months to maintain the route.

Then, Andy Bardon posted this…

Well, it’s climbing season on Mt. Everest, where each day seems to be a balancing act. Team logistics, acclimatization, physical hardship, and objective danger are all part of the deal. Wishing all a safe season, & massive thanks to the Sherpa that make it all possible.

And a day later, from Aaron Huey posted with a photo of Sherpa climbers circling their altar at basecamp before ascending the Khumbu icefall on their way to the summit of Mt. Everest…

My prayers go out to the family and friends of the Sherpa climbers who died on Everest today.

From Stephen Alvarez…

A high altitude helicopter drops off survivors from the avalanche on Mt Everest yesterday in Pheriche, Nepal. Survivors and the dead were transferred to a military helicopter for the final flight home. All day long trekking down the Khumbu we’ve been met with a steady stream of monks heading up valley to attend to the funerals of the dozen dead Sherpa climbers. Yesterday was the most deadly day in Everest climbing history. My heart goes out to the residents of the Khumbu Valley.

And then today, from Aaron Huey…

I have been at a loss for what to do in these days after the Everest tragedy. As a photographer who has worked with the Sherpa community (for an upcoming story at National Geographic), I am devastated. Two of the deceased were men I knew. At the end of the day I decided to give back to the community that gave so much to me, by creating a Sherpa Photo Fund. Some of the best photographers in the world joined me. For this week only, 10 of us who have worked in the region will be donating small, signed prints of our work for sale. 100% of the proceeds (after printing and shipping) will go to the Sherpa community – distributed by the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation (nonprofit), which has been working with Sherpa climbers in the Khumbu 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. Together, we can help to build a more comprehensive safety net for the high-altitude workers who help so many Westerners realize their dreams of the summit. To buy a print and learn more about distribution of funds visit Sherpa Photo Fund here.

I’ve been struck hard by this story as it’s played out in my Instagram feed, among the pictures of my family and friends and my own pictures of my kids doing kid things. The contrast has been stark and compelling.

I can’t help but think of the Sherpa and the role they play over there in that other place, that distant world so removed from the prairie on which I live.

Their work is for the benefit of others. They prepare the way. It could almost be biblical, the example of perseverance and fortitude and patience and preparation. Kind of John the Baptist-ish.

But really, it’s their work. It’s their adaptation to a system that entered their world. I don’t know if they love it or hate it, or maybe it’s both, but they do it.

It’s beautiful in captured photograph, but hard in real life. Kind of like a lot of things.

If you are so inclined, the photos for sale are six inches by six inches of beauty. Each is $100 plus shipping.