The spring avalanche that killed up to 16 Sherpas (13 confirmed) has left the world of climbing in the same position as the world of organized sports since the racist comments by Donald Sterling. The incidents have sparked outrage from athletes, spectators (armchair mountaineers) and politicians alike.
Sitting in coffee shops in Canmore and Toronto the past few weeks, I have heard my share of thoughts about Everest and the basketball team, the Los Angeles Clippers. There has been a flood of online opinion-based pieces which have had some terrific reporting and analysis that has lead to a better understanding of the events.
Climbers on Everest have been waiting for weeks to learn about their “ill-fated” trips. Expedition teams have been making the decision to leave, one by one, it seems the locals decided about Everest’s season this year. Helicopters carry officials to Base Camp and climbers home. Yak caverns are empty on the way to Base Camp and full when they leave. Despite the monsoon being a month away, it seems the season is over. Nevertheless, many expeditions continue their trek that ends at Everest’s Base Camp, including Peak Promotions’ which includes a number of Canadians.
The Nepalese government is encouraging expeditions to carry on, despite only making three million dollars from the season. Without the Sherpa to fix ropes and install ladders across the ice field, none of the 300 “climbers” in Base Camp can climb the mountain. That the season is “cancelled” because the Sherpa won’t climb reveals their importance and hopefully their demands will be met.
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As Mike Hamill said, “Perhaps the greatest challenge the entire Everest climbing community faces is the ability to remain engaged in the cause over time. It is easy to be swept up in fashionable sympathy the morning after news of a disaster flashes across our screens. It is an entirely different thing to keep the torch of reform burning in our hearts and minds next week, next month and, for those of us whose relationship with this mountain is not over, in all the years to come. Only then will proper homage be paid to those who died this year on Everest.”
It is interesting that at the same time Sherpa are standing up for their rights as a people, industry and culture, the fight against racism in North America has taken centre stage. Despite the recent event with Donald Sterling having nothing to do with mountains or climbing, the decision by the league to ban him from the sport and fine him set a new standard. Hopefully, a similar positive outcome awaits the Sherpa and the rest of the climbing community who support them.
On their homepage, the L.A. Clippers displayed a simple image that read “We are one,” a sentiment which echoes the one coming from the hillsides in Nepal. In an interview with CNN, Italian climber Claudio Tessarolo said, “We made Everest a circus. This year the Sherpas decided that the show will not go on.” -BP
Source: Alpinist, CNN, The Wall Street Journal