The April 18 avalanche that killed 13 Sherpas, three remain missing, has raised many questions as to what will happen with the commercial climbing industry on the Everest South Col Route. As we reported, climbing on the north side of Everest continues.
The avalanche that has been dubbed “Everest’s worst tragedy,” has left many wondering what the future of climbing Everest’s South Col route looks like. Some say global warming is to blame for the number of large avalanches, mostly caused by serac fall. It is no doubt a contributing factor, as glaciers have been melting at an alarming rate in mountain ranges everywhere. What will happen to the commercial climbing industry on Everest.
As Freddie Wilkinson wrote, “Eric Shipton, another legendary British alpinist whose 1951 reconnaissance pioneered the route through the icefall, paving the way for the first ascent of the mountain two years later, found it ethically questionable to ask the climbing Sherpas to venture into the icefall to help Westerners make it to the top. On that expedition, Shipton abandoned one foray up the icefall because of the intense dangers he saw. ‘The cliffs and towers over a wide area along our route had been shattered as though by an earthquake,’ Shipton later wrote. ‘Though in all my experience I had never seen anything like this, it seemed obvious that the whole area was now so unstable that, until it had time to settle, it would be foolish to take laden porters up through it.’”
Most Sherpa guides have opted to leave Everest. On Tuesday April 22, Nepal’s government agreed to some of the Sherpas’ demands, such as setting up a relief fund for Sherpas killed or injured in climbing accidents, but the funding falls short of what the Sherpas wanted. The Nepal National Mountain Guide Association in Katmandu would try to negotiate with the Sherpas and the government. After a memorial service at Base Camp on Tuesday, most Sherpas were planning to pack and leave as early as Wednesday. At least one company has cancelled the 2014 season, “Our team members have empathy for the Sherpa community and we wish for everyone to be able to mourn their lost family and friends in peace,” the Adventure Consultants Everest Expedition 2014 Team said on its website.
If the Sherpas boycott the season, many of the climbers would have to forfeit most or all of the money they have spent to go up Everest, which in some cases adds up to $90,000.
Base Camp Memorial
At the Base Camp memorial service, Buddhist lama read religious scripts while Sherpas and climbers burned incense butter lamps. The victims’ bodies were cremated on Monday. After the avalanche, the government quickly said it would pay the family of each Sherpa who died 40,000 rupees, or about $415. The Sherpas said they deserve far more – including more insurance money, more financial aid for the families of the victims and new regulations that would ensure climbers’ rights.
Tim Rippel’s Peak Freaks guiding company has been updating their blog about the situation as it unfolds.
On Sunday April 20, they reported: The press releases are starting to filter out now with various versions and perspectives of what’s going on here so I felt it’s important to make this statement now. As we suggested in a previous post the Sherpa guides are heating up, emotions are running wild and demands are being made to the government to share the wealth with the Sherpa people are on the table. Now that there are more Sherpa operators today on Everest, they’ve come to learn just how much the government of Nepal makes in revenues from Everest expeditions and they are asking for a share. This is their time and under very unfortunate circumstances. There were three meetings yesterday with Sherpa guides and expedition leaders. Their 13 demands of the government are mostly thought to be reasonable and a few we feel may need more thought. Western leaders including ourselves have been asked to help present the Sherpas demands to the government with and for them. In any case things are getting very complicated and there is a lot of tension here and it’s growing. Safety of our members is always our number one priority. Peak Freaks is in support of the Sherpa people any which way it goes. They are our family, our brothers and sisters and the muscle on Everest. We follow their lead, we are guests here.
On Tuesday April 22, they reported: The Ministry of Nepal has met most of the demands but there are other serious problems at hand.Since the avalanche many Sherpa guides left camp for a break or quit all together. Even after offering our guides full pay if they wanted to leave, they did not. They are all here with us as we work out the fate of Everest 2014 together. They are brave and wise men and I have an enormous amount of responsibility to them and their families.The fate of this climb is not just a political decision, it’s Mother Nature who calls the shots and that’s why we are having this conversation in the first place.As a professional member of the Canadian Avalanche Association I have my educated concerns. The mountain has been deteriorating rapidly the past three years due global warming and the breakdown in the Khumbu ice-fall is dramatic, especially at the upper icefall. We need to learn more about what is going on up there. Each day we sit and listen to the groaning and crashing of the glacier. Political grievances aside, we are not here to kill people.
Freddie Wilkinson said, “The sad reality is that such change must begin with the climbing Sherpas themselves. Although the commercial Everest climbing establishment praises their courage and contributions, on a deeper level, they are potential economic rivals. The Sherpas might take some inspiration from the Gurkhas, the famed Nepalese soldiers who serve in the British Army. Over the last decade, the Gurkhas have steadily organized and fought widely publicized legal campaigns over pension rights and other issues.” For more on his New York Times piece, see here.
Jon Krakauer said, “Should the government and the sherpas manage to reach an agreement concerning the terms of the new demands, it will come as no great surprise if most of the sherpas now grieving intensely for their absent companions resume their dangerous work within the next week or two. Many people believe that this is the most likely outcome.” For more on his New Yorker piece, see here.
Ed Viesturs said, “Imagine Everest basecamp like a home construction site. You have the contractors, who are the expedition organizers. You have the clients, who want to realize their dream. And you got this big stack of lumber that’s just been delivered and waiting to go. Except instead of wood, it’s miles of ropes, tents, and other supplies. The Sherpa are the carpenters – they are the ones who build the route up the mountain. Without the Sherpa, the work doesn’t get done. It’s their house.” For more on an interview with Viesturs in Men’s Journal, see here.
What will happen to the commercial climbing industry on Everest and more importantly, is this a sign of things to come?
“I like to think of Everest as a great mountaineering challenge, and when you’ve got people just streaming up the mountain – well, many of them are just climbing it to get their name in the paper, really.” -Edmund Hillary
Source: Associated Press, Wikipedia, Explorers Web