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Apr 222014
 
Icefall Doctors on Everest

Icefall Doctors Working

The Ministry of Tourism has agreed to many of the Sherpa demands but this is far from over as to the future of the 2014 season, the benefits for the Sherpa and the future of climbing in Nepal. Climbing continues on the north side.

Reports are coming in that a few Sherpa are stirring up the emotions at base camp demanding all Sherpa to stop climbing for the season. In addition, one report posted via Reuters on the New York Times has Lama Geshi  telling the Sherpa “…. they should not go to the summit because more will die”

I spoke directly with a contact who is at EBC and he confirms the season is still uncertain, the Sherpas are still undecided and there remains a lack of trust around the agreement with the Ministry.

There was a large ceremony at EBC Tuesday to mourn the dead. People there said it was a wide range of emotions, primarily sorrow, but also anger. Similar to last year when the fight broke out between Simone Moro and two Sherpa,  many in the Sherpa community seemed to come together feeling they were not being shown proper respect. This is not focused toward western climbers but more towards the Government of Nepal and around money.

In addition to the financial concerns, safety remains an issue. The ice serac that collapsed this year has released every year. Everest appears to becoming more unstable similar to Manaslu, Ama Dablam, K2 and many other large mountains around the world. That said, these ice features move all the time and are part of the overall objective dangers when climbing.

It is clear the major voices are from the young Sherpa, some who have been trained to international climbing standards and have International federation of Mountain Guide Association (IMFGA) certification.

Two expeditions who lost Sherpa in the serac release have canceled their season: Alpine Ascents (5) and Adventure Consultants (3).

The largest teams including Himalayan Experience (Himex) , Altitude Junkies, International Mountain Guides (IMG) are still at EBC and will continue the season if there is enough Sherpa support.

Individual climbers are in a wait and see stance, spending time with the Sherpa, getting know them better. Some climbers are doing acclimatization climbs on nearby trekking peaks trying to stay prepared when/if the season continues.

Many of the Sherpa have returned to EBC to attend the ceremony today but some are still in the homes down valley, a days walk from EBC. I’m told that many of the Sherpa are willing to continue climbing but will not go against the trend.

A meeting will be held in Kathmandu Wednesday April 23, perhaps with Nepal’s Prime Minister, to address the Sherpa concerns with an objective of bringing a signed agreement back to EBC so the Sherpa can make an informed decision on continuing the season.

I’m told that no decision has been made by the greater Sherpa community at EBC nor from the Ministry of Tourism thus contradicting major news media reports. This information is first hand from people there and owners of major guide companies.

The emotions are strong and varied. I’m told the elder Sherpa are devastated by the loss of life. Everyone knew someone who died in the Sherpa community. This is a unparalleled loss and has reached deep into their culture.

In addition, it has major implications for the future of climbing in the Khumbu and across Nepal. Depending on the overall reaction, it has the potential to change a way of life developed over the last 100 years in tourism and mountaineering for the Sherpa people.

I don’t want to exaggerate the situation but it is important to underscore the seriousness. The loss of life has brought into focus the real dangers of climbing these mountains and life changing choices are being made.

This is now more about the future of the Sherpa economy than foreigners climbing mountains.

Climb On!

Alan

Memories are Everything

 

 

 

 

  81 Responses to “Everest 2014: Season Still Uncertain”

  1.  

    Is there Family Relief Fund being set up for the Sherp’s families?

  2.  

    Thanks Alan for your great and unbiased coverage.
    Everest should no doubt be totally abandoned for the season out of respect for those brave sherpa who sacrificed their lives.
    Moves by any international company to continue climbing will clearly be seen by those around as a cynical ploy to continue making profits over the bodies of those sherpa, no matter how much of a spin they try to place on it!
    Excuses such as “the sherpa community can’t afford to go without the revenue” are just plane smokescreens for greedy members. At the end of the day, nobody deserves to die for a job and this is what has happened here!

  3.  

    who can step on and over these bodies in the icefall? bad karma this year… wouldnt blame the porter teams for getting out of dodge this year at least….

  4.  

    Honor those who perished. Come back another season. The peak will still be there

  5.  

    A bit of definition and perspective would go a long way about now. For clarity sake you really need to define your choice of sherpa worker, Sherpa person, representative Sherpa/sherpa etc. Kinda like saying one American is speaking for all, and who says they are authorized to speak for the masses, or are they just answering a question from a personal viewpoint when asked that next thing is news-wired world wide. On the season’s climbing going ahead: who really cares? You’re walking up a cold hill, your not creating world piece or curing cancer. So if need be it can wait. And in the midst of a lifechanging tragedy your own selfish aims take second seat surely to those who have just had their families life changed forever. So if your paid help aren’t available, carry your own bags or come back later.

    •  

      Thanks Craig, I agree the terms can be confusing. I used the term ‘climber’ for non-sherpas and that has created some complaints. I used the term Westerners for non-sherps and that generated feedback. So I try to keep it simple assuming that like you, many of my readers understand the context and that I would say cook if I meant cook instead of Sherpa.

      As for canceling the season, it would be significant for many, including many Sherpas if it would happen. Everything I have been told tells me most people there will support any decision made, and that tells us watching from afar, a lot about their true motives.

      •  

        Sorry Alan, my comments were aimed at the rest of us, certainly not to you personally. On climbing, it may be right to ask: so soon after this tragedy how focused on the job at hand will potentially grieving staff and climbers be? Terribly to think the lure and necessity of wages may contribute to anything further happening. Best wishes to all affected. Cheers, C.

  6.  

    I’ll understand either decision. The Sherpa’s are the mountains guardians,I support them 100%.

  7.  

    I’ll understand either decision. The Sherpa’s are the mountains guardians,I support them 100%.

  8.  

    http://m.rte.ie/news/touch/2014/0422/610234-everest/
    Here is the link, still some uncertainty tho.

  9.  

    Some reports emerging that climbing will resume Saturday, Sherpas requests (rights) for compensation have been met, still need to wait and see. I agree Alan Arnette my information from BC is that the climbers are with the Sherpas 100% as are we all.

  10.  

    Thanks Todd, this report is being reused by many organizations. I am still skeptical as it uses one person as the primary Sherpa spokesperson who played a similar unofficial role on Manaslu in 2012. I think we bystanders need to give it another few days to see what really happens. No matter, it is a tragedy for the families of the Sherpa killed and will change Everest climbing, and the future of climbing Sherpas forever. Time will tell if the change is for the better.

  11.  

    According to friends the same Sherpa who caused all the drama on Makalu.

    •  

      Allen,

      Your “Drama” and “seasons of no work” seem to reflect a certain lack of sensitivity on your part to the Sherpa culture. Try trading places with them for a few minutes, walk the walk, then talk…

  12.  

    Alan…. “Bhotia” is a term that includes numerous ethnic groups with very similar histories. There is even a 2nd group of Sherpa. I’m pretty sure that the Khumbu elders are aware that these other groups would love to compete for jobs…….

  13.  

    one Sherpa seems to be dominating news from EBC fueling closure reports. Still unclear on reality. Next 2 days are key.

  14.  

    Thanks for the updates Alan, it’s good to have a balanced perspective at such a difficult time for so many involved

  15.  

    I think it could add to the discussion if someone could provide a reasonable comparison of the roles/income/etc during an Everest climbing season for:

    – a western climbing guide
    – Sherpa employed by a commercial outfit
    – freelance Sherpa
    – Other support staff (cooks, porters, etc)

  16.  

    Erica, lets discuss this after a few seasons of no work.

  17.  

    I think too, that even Sherpas that seem very westernised are extremely superstitious. Most are going to see malign forces at work in the serac collapse and its death toll. Anything that has been touched by death is seen as a particularly bad augury. In families where you may have up to fifty first cousins, everyone is going to know someone. And many families will have lost more than one. Also, to a sherpa, every other sherpa is a brother, so the cultural bonds are much more complicated than we, as westerners, understand. And, yes, they do hate the icefall above everything. Anything that could reduce the necessity of frequent crossing would be a step forward. Please, please no talk of a cable car. The mountains do not belong to climbers and (though many seem to think so) they are not there for their personal convenience. God! What a thought!

    •  

      I would rather see a cable car to the top than read every year about the annual human sacrifice on Mt. Everest.

  18.  

    “Money is the root of all evil”
    Maybe it’s time to think about the mountain and the people that make this all possible. Let’s put our egos aside and out of respect for the the Sherpa community, support a year off to clear everyone’s head.

  19.  

    Alan, how will the Sherpas survive if everybody goes home and they don’t earn any money this season? I believe that their earnings need to actually keep them going until next season?

  20.  

    Sean- the same has been said for fixed ropes, ladders and oxygen in the past, lets face it Everest is a full on tourist attraction, it will always draw crowds its time to look to a modern solution to the old problem of the icefall. I’m not saying helicopters are the option, bad weather grounds them as well as other issues with them. How about a fixed cable car ? We need to find a way to limit the risk or people will continue to die in the icefall

    •  

      How about a real limit on how many per year can climb and a requirement that they have the experience to actually climb. Yes modern equipment has made it easier but still so many are up there that have no business being on Everest. Also if they can acclimatize on other mountains or special tents it would limit the trips through the khumbu for everyone.

  21.  

    Scott. Seriously?

    Using helicopters for moving gear and supplies through the icefall is reasonable but people? I guess you could make it an option but your summit would get an asterisk. Just one mans opinion.

    •  

      In reality would flying to camp in the Western Cwm be any different than flying into Denali BC? That is done to save time, and avoid the dangers of trekking up the long and heavily crevassed Muldrow Glacier. Should all who do not make the entire journey on foot on Denali have an asterisk too?

  22.  

    I don’t want to downplay the tragedy and loss that took place but I am curious about the small team going for a three-fer. It sounded like that was a well prepared team and I feel they really have a shot. Is there any news of their progress or plans?

    I know you are busy covering the everest season right now but any info on them would be great. I will look back and see if you had links to any of them as well

    You do a great job, this is in no way a complaint. I have been following you from my desk each of the last 3 seasons. thank you!

  23.  

    It seems to me a lot of the current situation has been catalyzed by the Nepalese Ministry. They have granted many many money making permits – over $3 million of revenue – an immense sum for this government. The number of climbing members now requires over 600 sherpa to provision and assist at STANDARD climbing (meaning same type of climb as always).

    Increased number of climbers, and their supporting sherpa, increase traffic. The mountain hasn’t changed in severity and the serac cleaves off the same as it has for thousands of years. There are just more people now on the route exposed to the same objective hazards as always.

    Punishing the climbers by canceling the season in order to extract concessions from the Ministry seems to lack leverage for this season – – after all the fees have been paid and nonrefundable climbing permits issued.

    Seems to me the best thing the sherpa might CONSIDER doing is to climb-on this season in memory of those who perished, then take an immediate position after the season by announcing they will NOT be climbing NEXT year BEFORE the operators and climbers pay their fees for next season – – which would NOT be forthcoming from the operators and independent teams if it was understood in advance there would be no sherpa available for the 2015 season. That would be very painful for the Ministry.

    It seems then the sherpa community would be in a much better position to get what they want and should be able to make the Ministry implement a series of programs that would provide better counterbalance for them and their families to the risks involved in guiding. Giving members and operators advance notice will align their interests with the sherpa and actually help bring pressure. No deal – no 2015 season – no $3 million for the Ministry – bad for everyone.

    g-

    •  

      Gary,

      Well thought out, hopefully it can play out that way…

    •  

      So agree with you. I hear from base camp that it is the free lance sherpa that are causing the riots and not the permanently employed sherpa. (My sister is there at the moment)

      •  

        “I hear from base camp that it is the free lance sherpa that are causing the riots and not the permanently employed sherpa. (My sister is there at the moment)”

        The free lance sherpas? …. oh, is this stupid …

      •  

        Yes. And thinking about this further I can’t help but wonder about the influence the increased presence of representatives from the Nepal government created on the group dynamic. Of course I’m saying this from afar, but this, and the more diverse set of constituencies represented in this large group of sherpa, are going to require a political process – – not – – unfortunately – – a mountaineering process.

  24.  

    As it seems all the headline writers have forgotten, I would like to point out that it is business as usual on the Chinese side. There will be people on the summit in 2014. And Everest in not closed down. It is terrible what happened but the expeditions will go on, nobody involved can afford to take the economic hit that will come if they don’t continue as planned. The icefall is a dangerous place, it always has been, always will be. With all the advancements that have been made over the years to make the summit easier and “safer” to achieve, like fixed ropes and ladders, better equipment and oxygen supplies, why don’t they use helicopters to move people and equipment straight to the western cwm and establish a new ABC, just a thought, it would save countless trips and probably many lives. RIP to all of those that have died on Everest with condolences to everyone involved should, be the only story here but as with everything Everest the media have hyped it up and people are playing politics.

    •  

      I think the reason the helicopters are not a great choice is due to safety. Lifting up a climber who needs help is a lot different then repeat flights with the added weight of supplies and many climbers. So even tho the idea is a nice one, I would worry a lot about the safety of it. There was a chopper crash once already, another would just add to wreckage and loss of life. Plus the effects on the mountain it could have. With the added wind pressure and vibration. Could make more things fall over on climbers.

    •  

      It might as well be shut down from the Tibet/China side for Americans it is very difficult to get permits now if you are American.

  25.  

    To my knowledge, no overall decision has been made as I covered in the attached post (please read). You may see statements otherwise but please remember that an individual may be talking about his teammates on his company when he says “we all agree”. And there may be Sherpas who are speaking unauthorized for all Sherpas but may not really represent them as there is no single spokesperson, or at least never has been. This is a fluid time ripe for misquotes and agendas.

  26.  

    We should respect the decision of the sherpas!

  27.  

    It’s all over the news here. According to The Guardian, Spiegel and Neue Züricher Zeitung all Everest trips this season are cancelled out of respect for the deceased according to an interview given to AFP.

  28.  

    From your comments it would seem that there is still hope that the season will go ahead.

    For information…………As reported on UK ITV News earlier today………….

    about 4 hours ago Everest sherpas abandon climbing season after deaths

    Everest sherpas abandon climbing season after deaths

    Sherpas who work as guides on Mount Everest have said they will not work again this climbing season to honour 16 colleagues killed in an avalanche last week.

    Sherpas carrying supplies at Everest base camp Credit: Dave Cheskin/PA Wire

    The decision may scupper the plans of many foreign mountaineers who rely on the sherpas to help them carry and maintain kit.

    “We had a long meeting this afternoon and we decided to stop our climbing this year to honour our fallen brothers. All sherpas are united in this,” local sherpa Tulsi Gurung told the AFP news agency.

    •  

      To my knowledge, no overall decision has been made as I covered in the attached post (please read). You may see statements otherwise but please remember that an individual may be talking about his teammates on his company when he says “we all agree”. And there may be Sherpas who are speaking unauthorized for all Sherpas but may not really represent them as there is no single spokesperson, or at least never has been. This is a fluid time ripe for misquotes and agendas.

      •  

        Alan, as always you have the most informed, nuanced, humane, and thoughtful coverage of difficult situations. I’m not a climber due to health concerns, but have always been fascinated by mountains, and am always grateful for your work.

  29.  

    It’s very sad that so many died in a purely random event like this. It’s also sad that there are those on both sides wanting to politicize it. I hope for the sake of their economy that there are no long term negative impacts from these negotiations.

    Thanks again for keeping us in the loop.

  30.  

    According to a quote from Dorje Sherpa most of the Sherpa are planning to tack and leave EBC as early as Wednesday. Is there any truth to this statement ?

  31.  

    Thanks for the update.

  32.  

    Thanks Alan for keeping us updated.

  33.  

    Great reporting, Alan. Thanks.

  34.  

    Good update as usual Alan thankyou.Ref the North side I remember Russell Brice saying when he was on the north side that many of the Sherpa’s Absolutely dreaded the icefall and that was one of the main reason they approached from the north.He later moved to the south but kept journeys through it to an absolute minimum by acclimatising on other mountains as many other operators do now.Both sides of course have there risks and many consider the north side more difficult but the problem with the ice fall is it does not matter how fit you are or how much planning you do if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time you are in serious trouble. Suspect the north side will probably become more popular again next year after this.Thoughts are with the Sherpa’s and there family’s at this difficult time.

  35.  

    Dear Alan,

    Thansk for your updates.

    Lot of mainstream media is reporting that the season is dead. If it is indeed, the pure alpine style climbers can always summit right? Or will the sherpas force them to not to summit out of respect for dead (missing) sherpas.

  36.  

    Alan, do climbers on the North side also hire Sherpa? If so, how have they been affected by this tragedy?

    •  

      @Laura Rachael, yes – climbers on the north side also hire Sherpa. One climber I’ve followed for years is Bill Burke (eightsummits.com). He has been very affected by this tragedy and so far has not reported whether his independent climb will continue.

  37.  

    Thank you for your up to date and accurate information. I heard on my local radio station at lunch time that the Sherpas were definitely not continuing this year and that Everest 2014 season would be cancelled. I have been watching Twitter & Facebook for confirmation of that news.

  38.  

    I’ve wondered if/when/how there would be Sherpa backlash against the ministry / Nepali Govt.

  39.  

    This has to be very difficult for you report on Alan, thank you for remaining objective and compassionate during such a delicate and emotional time in the history of Everest.

  40.  

    I agree Alan, it’s more about the future of the Sherpa economy than foreigners climbing mountains.

  41.  

    Thanks Alan for the updates…you are a great source of info in our climbing community.

  42.  

    As an absolute Everest neophite. I’d think the 2nd step route would be safer than the icefall? Will the N. Face get more thought now?

  43.  

    Thanks for the calm and even handed reporting.

  44.  

    IMG can be very tight fisted with monies paid. Hopefully travel insurance will help?

  45.  

    Yes. These expeditions require a lot of upfront money – food, supplies, paying Sherpa, transportation, etc

  46.  

    Is that stipulated upfront in writing?

  47.  

    Thanks much for keeping us updated!

  48.  

    usually not but depends on the operator.

  49.  

    If they cancel the season, will the climbers get their money back?

    •  

      More often then not, once they pay they get no money back. For my past trips I have d a high level of insurance that would cover something like this, but that was up to each climber. The guide companies rarely, if ever, refund money.