The highest mountain in the world is, as you know, Mt. Everest (29,029ft, 8,848m). It is on the border between Nepal (South) and China (North). This spring, between March and June 2012, I will climb the mountain through south side, as a leader of a Korean expedition.
South side of the mountain
But, it is, for me, not just a climbing to the top: as an anthropology PhD candidate at University of California, Riverside, it is a part of my dissertation research titled as "Forces of the Unknown: Presubjective, Intersubjective, and Subjective Community in Himalayan Mountaineering." I will conduct a research in Nepal and South Korea for two years including this expedition.
In fact, I climbed the tallest mountain from the opposite side in 2006. The climbing, too, was a part of my master thesis's research titled "Symbolic Politics of Himalayan Mountaineering: An Anthropological Approach," as a graduate student at the Department of Anthropology at Seoul National University.
North Side of the Mountain
To your eyes as well as mine, it looks ironical: Which is first, as a climber or as an anthropologist? Am I climbing as a climber or as an anthropological researcher?
Please don't raise such a question. It is useless. All responses would be meaningless. No relation to the reality.
Moreover, it is harmful. This kind of dissecting, anatomizing tendency alienates us from the reality. People ask: 'Why do Sherpas climb?' 'Why mountaineers dare to risk their life?' 'What do they want from the mountain?' It is a reductionism, reducing human into machine, economic machine, symbolic machine, greedy or altruistic machine.
But, it is true that people, and mountaineers themselves, are urged to ask. I, too, climb and conduct research in order to make an answer to that question.