(Originally published on Abbott.com)
Swirling snow. Freezing temperatures. Hidden crevasses.
Only the world's most elite climbers are crazy enough to seek these hazards.
To conquer the elements and scale the 29,029 feet above sea level, most mountaineers rely on true experts to lead the way up Mount Everest: Sherpas.
They spend their lives guiding climbers to the top. Doing so takes a toll on their bodies.
A truly demanding job
Sherpas — sure-footed Nepalese mountaineers — are the invaluable guides to thrill-seeking climbers itching to reach Everest's summit. They trek through extreme elements while carrying packs that weigh about 22 pounds.
The perils of the mountain itself are infamous. The dangers faced by Sherpas back at base camp are less well-known.
As they climb, Sherpas burn thousands of calories and the ensuing altitude sickness often results in nutritional deficiencies. Sherpas lose on average 19 to 22 pounds every time up.
Achieving health and strength
Sherpas need to replenish their bodies with essential nutrients during expeditions. Abbott's nutrition team in India saw the problem and wanted to help.
Dr. Sandeep Raj Kunwar from Kathmandu established a health checkup camp and created nutrition plans that included Abbott's Ensure science-based nutritional drinks. "This helped give the Sherpas the required strength and energy to withstand the demanding conditions during the summit," said Debotpal Sengupta of Abbott's nutrition business in India.
At the health checkup camp, the Sherpas received medical examinations, watched an informational video on Ensure nutritional drinks, and were given a diet chart that showed them how to meet daily nutritional needs.
"We were exhausted and disoriented trekking from camp 1 to camp 3," Mingma Sherpa, a seasoned guide, said. "Then we mixed Ensure in mineral water and drank it. We felt good and strong when we resumed climbing."
Mingma said the Sherpas are now better able to maintain their weight and strength. "No other company has ever thought about our health and how to help stop our weight loss," Mingma said. "Abbott has given us that."