Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks, including Mt. Everest (called Chomolungma by the surrounding communities). These majestic mountains attract climbers and adventurers from around the globe. Over the breathtaking landscapes and challenging terrain, the unsung heroes of the mountains are ever present — the guides and porters.  

Krishna Man Rai’s life once revolved around the Everest region. The 43-year-old is a porter, a farmer, and the only breadwinner for his family. Despite having a keen interest in education and a dream of becoming a trekking guide, he had to leave his studies and begin work at the age of ten due to financial problems in his house.  

Krishna worked as a porter in the Everest region for around 12 years. He carried gear, supplies, and equipment from the lowlands to base camp for expeditions. The Everest region was full of opportunities for hard-working people like Krishna. He seized the opportunity and was making good money. With excitement, he says, Receiving tips from the customers was the cherry on top for porters like us.”  

Krishna Man Rai and his wife
Krishna Man Rai and his wife

While the mountains offer beauty and the promise of abundance, they also pose daunting challenges One day on his way to Everest, Krishna developed altitude sickness. He recalls, “I caught altitude sickness at Renjo-La Pass. My friends and brother had already descended and were resting at base camp. It was noon and I was coming down with the help of ropes put by the Sherpas. I was carrying around 155lbs (70kg) at that time. I do not remember much, but I fell asleep. Suddenly, I had an illusion and felt like my wife was calling me, I tried looking at her but could not find her. I then got confused if I was still alive or if I had died already. Somehow, I fought with my inner self and tried keeping my eyes open as I wanted to live. After a while, my brother came searching for me. He then carried my load, and we went back together. After that incident, I never returned to Everest.  

A near-death experience left him questioning his existence, and it marked the end of his work in the high Himalaya. Krishna was completely shattered. He was the sole breadwinner of the family, and now he had no work.  

However, Krishna was resilient. dZi had recently partnered with Chheskam, bringing new opportunities to the community, and he made the decision to work as a porter in his own village. Krishna became an integral part of dZi’s projects, transporting materials for the construction of earthquake-safe school buildings and EcoSan toilets. Krishna not only found his feet after a traumatic accident but also found a way to support his family's aspirations.  

Krishna walking through Chheskam's fields
Krishna walking through Chheskam's fields

Proudly, Krishna says, "With my earnings from dZi, I was able to pay for my elder daughter's education. She is pursuing a career as a Health Assistant and is in her final year of study." While Krishna couldn't fulfill his own educational dreams, he is making sure that his children can pursue their aspirations.  

Krishna's journey reflects the highs of mountain life and the unexpected lows that test the spirit. Despite all the odds, Krishna stood up for himself, his family, and his village. His determination to never settle makes him a perfect example of a real-life hero. 

Krishna's son using a dZi-built water tap outside their home
Krishna's family using a dZi-built water tap outside their home

Picture Credit: Sitaram Thapa Magar (Samip)