To Porter or Not to Porter? : A Quandary Verse of the Trekking Industry

Trekking along different trails in Nepal, everyone will come face to face with the formidable porters along the way. The sheer strength and resilience of the porters are awe-inspiring. But if you take a time to hear their end of the story, the job comes with a price and without one at the same time.

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There are tons of trekking industries in Nepal and those who operate from else where, they charge their clients hundreds of dollars, yet the amount the guides and the porters get are infinitesimal compared to what they get. The guides do get a good share of it but the porter stand at the worst end. Not that they guides are getting good amount either. The funny thing is, the guides and the porters are actually risking their life while the company heads are making tons of money each year.
During the trek to ABC, I had seen the state of porters, but it was far more worse in the Everest region compared to the Annapurna. They get paid about 800 Nrs per day (Food not paid for) to carry at least 30 Kgs of load. They have to pay for their food themselves. Which at the highest point in the trekking will cost at least 350 Nrs, the room they get, while in Annapurna region is the barns outside the hotel room. In Everest, they can’t even manage to get such settings. And the food price goes off the roof even for them. I was having a conversation with one of the porters in the town of Lobuche. Where the food prices were pretty high for everyone. 


I asked one of the porters, how much they had to pay for the food. 350 Nrs for Daal- Bhaat. When I asked him how much he’d earn per day, he replied 800 Nrs. And I was shocked to learn that the hotels wouldn’t give rooms to the Porters and they’d have to find some place to stay! He told me “I need to find a Bhatti to sleep, I will be pretty lucky to get one!  Few hours later , he still hand’t found a place to stay, and it was snowing outside. I swear the room with a good bed and a blanket was pretty cold to stay in at that altitude. I wonder where he and the other porters slept. He told me that it gets even worse during the trekking seasons. Even guides don’t get the rooms and they have to sleep on the dinning hall.


To be honest, during a single trekking/expedition the people who struggle the most and go through a lot are the porters and sadly they are at the lowest receiving end. I actually saw a guy carrying 16 logs!! 16 freaking logs on his back, while he was resting I asked him how much did it weigh! He replied 120 kgs! I swear it was more, it was freaking logs!! Not just that, I saw some porters carrying a fridge up the hill, most people would struggle to carry a liter of water bottle.


Trekking is sophistication, but their work is compulsion. People can spend more in sophistication but those who work hard to earn because of their compulsion can’t make enough money out of it. Not only do they go through the pain of doing that, but they risk their life at the same time. While crossing the Chola Pass, It was so damn slipper that we almost slipped to our death at times with our small backpacks. But the porters had to walk on that glacier and the slippery ice with a huge backpack. And again, funnily enough at the end of the trek, the do get tips but not as much as they deserve. And the problem is, not taking a porter means those guys won’t get to do their job, that’s what they do for living. Not taking one will reduce the possibility of them getting a job at the same time getting one feels like exploitation. The only remedy to this problem would be if the companies would pay them well and the client would actually tip them well at the end. Aren’t they who do all the hard work at the end of the day? 

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