Porters: The unsung heroes of mountaineering

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As the world celebrates the 60th anniversary of the first recorded successful climbing of Mt Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, Staff Writer, THALEFANG CHARLES pays tribute to the porters, the unsung heroes of every mountain expedition

It is like a scene from a slavery film; black men hiking in a painstaking queue with heavy brown sacks hanging from their necks and hefty backpacks. They hold big water bottles with both hands. These are porters - the unsung heroes of every high mountain hiking expedition. Ask anyone who has ever climbed a high mountain and they will concur that these are the real heroes for every hiker.

These are men and (more recently) women who carry all the climbers' supplies as they attempt, for whatever reasons, to stand on top of the high peaks. I was one of the beneficiaries of the services of these people when I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2011. Let me commend these poor souls this week when the world celebrates the first conquest of the highest peak on earth, by Edmund Hillary (British) and Tenzing Norgay (Nepalese) six decades ago. Norgay actually started as a porter. When entering Kilimanjaro Park, nervously excited about the daring challenge that lies ahead, there are men in jackets, ready and waiting to be hired to carry up supplies and every load that needs to be taken up the mountain. This over-supply of personnel has led to cheap labour, aggravated by Tanzania's high unemployment rate. When I climbed Kilimanjaro, porters were willing to risk their life for meager wages and without proper gear.

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