One of the most well-known destinations in adventure travel appears to be ready to shut down for the year. In the aftermath of the avalanche on April 18th that killed 16 Sherpa guides, other Sherpas have announced that they will not climb the mountain again this season out of respect for the dead, as covered by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website.
The move essentially ends any chance of a successful summit from the Nepalese side of the world’s tallest mountain in 2014.
The trek up the mountain is most often attempted in May, when the weather is most conducive to climbing. The Sherpas that were killed during the avalanche were on the mountain preparing for the arrival of the foreign climbers in the weeks to come.
The interest Mount Everest receives as the world’s tallest peak has ensured that death on the mountain happens frequently: more than 250 people have died while attempting to summit the mountain, according to the same source.
However, the 2014 avalanche is the single deadliest incident in the history of the mountain, and has raised serious questions about how the native Sherpas are insured and compensated for their extremely dangerous work.
Government response brings out anger and resentment
Mountaineering has become big business in Nepal, but the avalanche has caused many to stop and think about the guides who make the whole thing possible. Sherpas who serve as mountain guides are often expected to work with inexperienced foreign climbers, adding to the danger placed on the Sherpas themselves.
Many from the community have also questioned the level of support provided for the Sherpas from the Nepalese government.
According to an Associated Press report, families of the deceased guides would receive 40,000 Nepalese rupees each ($415) from the government, in addition to the $10,000 mandatory insurance policy taken on the lives of each of the guides.
Many Sherpas have called on the government to provide more legal and financial support for their work, including more life insurance, more aid for the families of victims, and stronger regulations to protect the rights of Sherpas working on the mountain. The government is currently in discussions with leaders of the Sherpa community about the new demands that have come out in the wake of the disaster.
Serving as mountain guides is one of the few options available for Sherpas to make a living in Nepal; according to the CIA World Factbook, the country has an unemployment rate of 46 percent.
The other way up
While the majority of summit attempts leave from the southern side of the mountain in Nepal, some expeditions do leave from the northern side of the mountain in Tibet, and Chinese officials have indicated that the less popular route will remain open for business despite the avalanche and the unrest in the Sherpa community.
According to a report from National Geographic, the Tibetan side of the mountain is less popular with climbers due to the Chinese government’s checkered history of dealing with climbers.
While the Nepalese government has traditionally been very cooperative with mountaineering expeditions, the Chinese government has been known to refuse visas for climbers, and also requires expeditions to use local Tibetan guides instead of bringing trusted Sherpas from Nepal.
According to the National Geographic report, there are between 50 and 100 climbers currently approaching the mountain’s summit from the Tibetan side. However, expeditions planning to take the Nepalese route will have to wait until next year.
Teams who paid the $100,000 dollar permit fee to climb the mountain from the south will have the option of climbing the mountain again in the next five years without having to re-pay the fee, as reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website.