Gathered around the Buddhist altar in their living room, Aangphurba Sherpa and his family are praying for a loved one killed in last week's avalanche on Mount Everest.
Aangphurba’s brother was one of 16 Sherpas killed in the accident - the most deadly ever on the world's highest peak.
“This is my brother,” says Aangphurba, holding up a photograph. “It was taken in 2012 when he was at the top of Mount Everest.”
The deaths have had a profound effect on Nepal’s Sherpa community, who are now banding together to push the Nepalese government for more protection in what is one of the world’s most dangerous professions.
They are calling for better insurance coverage, more financial aid for the families of victims, the creation of a relief fund, and regulations that would guarantee climbers' rights.
A number of Sherpas have also decided to boycott this year’s climbing season – a decision that will be a significant financial blow.
A high-altitude Nepali guide can earn between $3,000 and $6,000 during a three-month climbing season, far above the country’s $700 average annual salary.
Key Nepalese industry
Apa Sherpa is among those backing the boycott. He perhaps knows the risks of climbing Everest better than anyone - he has scaled the mountain a record 21 times.
“They have to fix the ropes they have to carry supplies, everything,” he says. “Then they have to bring all the gear down, clear everything up. A Sherpa’s job is very risky, very dangerous.”
A cancelled season on Mount Everest will also certainly affect Nepal's economy, which mainly relies on tourism and high-altitude mountaineering.
With tens of thousands of trekkers from all over the world coming to the Everest region every year, it has become the wealthiest part of the country outside of the capital Kathmandu.
However, for a community where mountain climbing is a way of life, the Sherpas are unlikely to remain off Everest for long.
Despite his brother's death, Aangphurba says he plans to go back to work on the mountain next year.
“As Sherpas we live in the Himalayas. We love working in the mountains,” he says. “We know it's risky but what else can we do.”
Date created : 2014-04-26