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Apr 232014
 

IMG EverestInternational Mountain Guides, IMG, who has the largest team climbing from the south side of Everest has ended their season. While there has been no official comment from the other large teams including Asian Trekking, Himex and Altitude Junkies, the IMG decision most likely ends all attempts from the south.

Climbing is still occurring on the North side of Everest and other Himalayan mountains.

IMG fields a very large team of Sherpa who are key in fixing the line to the summit. Without their support, other teams would struggle to find the manpower, although it would still be possible with excellent cooperation. However, time is running out to attempt a summit.

This is the IMG statement:

IMG leaders Greg Vernovage and Ang Jangbu Sherpa have been forced to end the expedition due to the perilous conditions resulting from the April 18 Icefall avalanche. After several days of intense meetings at Base Camp and in Kathmandu among climbers, sherpas, and representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, no agreement was reached on restarting the 2014 Everest climbing season. The Icefall route is currently unsafe for climbing without repairs by the Icefall doctors, who will not be able to resume their work this season. We have explored every option and can find no way to safely continue the expedition.

The IMG team will be starting down valley in the next few days, with some trekking and some hitching rides by helicopter. They are joined by climbers from other expedition teams that had also been waiting at Base Camp and have also been forced to end their climbs.

A meeting was held with government officials in Kathmandu on Wednesday resulting in an agreement to send a high level official to base camp to discuss the situation. The Nepal government has said they would put a team of officials at EBC this year but reports are the officials never appeared at base camp furthering distrust with the Sherpa community.

Also, the Ministry agreed to allow helicopters to ferry supplies to Camp 1 for 2014 and perhaps beyond.

Climbers are posting their personal status and in general have mixed emotions of support for the Sherpas while watching their own dreams fade away.

I’m told there is not unity within the Sherpa community and this is driven by a few young, very vocal climbing Sherpas who are using the media very well.  The primary reasons for the Sherpa’ discontent range from increased pay and life insurance for all Sherpa, support for families of climbing Sherpa killed on Everest to having an equal position along side commercial guides to showing respect for the victims of last week’s serac fall. Also, many people, Sherpa to Western Guides felt the Icefall was unsafe this year.

The clock is ticking for teams to properly acclimatize due to no climbing this week. By this time in April, most climbers would have spent several nights at Camp 2, 21,500′, and be preparing to spend that important night at Camp 3 on the Lhotse Face.

Usually, the first summits are by the Sherpa rope fixing team in early May. But they would have had the ropes, anchors and supplies already positioned by this time at Camp 2 and nothing has been carried there as of today.

Addendum and Update

– Current reports from Tibet side shows no issue, team climbing and are at Advanced Base Camp

– Lhotse climbers are impacted as they use same route and support as Everest climbers

– North side teams are unaffected and  good progress. There will be Everest summits in 2014

– Peak Freaks cancels season and cast doubt on their future Everest expeditions

– Alpenglow has canceled their season asking clients not to fly to Nepal.

– A small segment of the Sherpa loosely associated with the Maoist at EBC had threatened other Sherpa and their families if they did not go along.

There are many questions about if the Sherpa still get paid and if clients get refunds. It depends is the answer as it varies from each team.

Every team will manage paying Sherpas differently. Most are paid on a per carry/load basis so no carries, no pay. Others get a flat salary, others get a daily rate. Some teams have offered to pay them in full no matter what happens. For many long time teams, Sherpa are family and they are taken care of climb or not …

As for refunds, in general, clients do not receive refunds regardless of circumstances. In 2012 when Himex canceled their season, there were no refunds but discounts on future climbs. Almost all the money is spent up front on supplies, permits, transportation, labor so very little is left at this point.

The next question is the long term impact on climbing Everest. Time will tell but I expect prices to go up based on the increased Sherpa compensation, less Sherpas to be hired as a result of using helicopters and higher client prices, fewer climbers due to higher prices and the increased awareness of the risks. But, in the past after a difficult year, there were more climbers that next year. But 2014 was not a normal ‘difficult’ year

Remember teams are still on the north side. It is unclear if the Sherpa on that side will quit as well. Many teams use Tibetan staff for their support due to Chinese rules.

I will update this post as more reliable information becomes available.

Climb On!
Alan
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  74 Responses to “Everest 2014: Season Near End from Nepal – Update 1”

  1. I am also sad for the lost sherpas, their families, and for everyone who is impacted and I agree with you Alan “now is a time to honor the fallen, their families and lost dreams and for the lost dreams of the climbers as well.” Hopeful everyone will stay away from Everest, and the circus it has become, for years to come and give the Sherpas back their mountain. I have cancelled my 2015 plans effective today.

  2. Thanks for the update !

  3. Thank you for an informative report on this tragic event.
    I fell in love with Nepal and its people during a trek up to EBC in September 2012.
    Regarding refunds / compensation to the Sherpa families ….. I can understand that clients don’t get refunds as supplies, etc are pre-ordered and paid for, but could these supplies then be passed on to the families?
    And surely the Government could be pressured into refunding most of the permit fees, because no-one is climbing the mountain, and then those fees could also be given to the Sherpa families who have lost their income source now that the climbing season almost closed?
    I know these are minor points in a complicated matter,
    but every small bit helps.
    My heart goes out to all those with broken dreams and broken families!!

  4. Thanks for update, Alan. It’s sad for everyone, sherpas, teams and climbers.

  5. test, delete if goes through please

  6. The decision to allow the use of helicopters to ferry supplies to Camp 1 and perhaps beyond is alarming. To a certain extent it is understandable under the circumstances, but it certainly sets a bad precedent. What is next, skipping the Icefall by flying climbers to Western Cwm also. Maybe flying them to South Col, after artificial acclimatization at BC? The style of climbing on Everest has been bad already.

    Starting to use West Ridge route, straight up from BC to Cho La for starters, would require some real climbing skills from the clients. Not a bad idea at all. There used to be a ladder and a chainsaw engine powered cargo winch up there at the top, I wonder it they still are there?

  7. Is there any chance that some climbers will take advantage of the “empty” mountain to clean up trash and discarded items since they won’t have the opportunity to summit this year?

  8. Alan, so far as you have observed or heard, have the temperatures at EBC, Camp I and Camp II been higher this season than previous seasons? Have you observed a warming trend over the last ten years? I ask because I have seen suggestions that the South Col route is either becoming more dangerous or is likely to become more dangerous due to higher temperatures. I wondered if you think there is any basis for these suggestions.

    • I think there is some truth to that but also ice moves and it could be as simple as nature being nature. The glaciers have receded per work by Galcierworks and David Breashers so it is safe to assume the Khumbu Icefall is impacted as well.

  9. Tim Ripple said it best:
    “Tomorrow the Nepalese army and police are expected at base camp to try to talk to the Sherpas who do not want to climb into doing it for a few select operators that are putting pressure on them. This is not how we climb mountains!!

    The ice-fall doctors who put the ladders and routes in through the ice-fall have made their decision that the glacier is not safe. Why wouldn’t we listen to them? In addition 300+ Sherpas have put their names on an organized protest to not climb in respect of the recent deaths, why wouldn’t we listen to them?”

  10. Thanks for your updates Alan. Much appreciated.

  11. Jon, there was one 2 person team attempting a new route but I’m not sure they ever made to EBC. My working assumption is everyone will end their efforts on the South side by Friday. Climbing continues uninterrupted on the North.

    • I am somewhat surprised about so few relatively unsupported climbers. Besides honoring the lost sherpas, you would expect the empty mountain to be a unique opportunity for the elite climbers out there to go high on the mountain in a way that has not been possible for decades, and will likely never be possible again in the future.

      I would love to hear your view on this, and opinion of other strong climbers.

      Would it be possible for the strongest of mountain guides currently there to attempt an ascent? If it can be done I would imagine it would be one of the most impressive and daring feats of modern alpinism. What do you think?

  12. Thanks all. This is a difficult time for mountaineering in general. There will be time to apply the lessons from this season to improve the sport I love. But now is a time to honor the fallen, their families and lost dreams.

  13. Alan, thank you the education and awareness of not only climbing, but Alzheimer’s! We thoroughly enjoy your blog posts and pics. Team Thomas

  14. RMI going home as well.

    http://www.rmiguides.com/blog/

  15. The climbers know it is a risk to climb. The least of those risks losing your money if the Mountain decides it is too risky.
    What this will do economically to a people who depend on trekking and climbing to lift themselves up above poverty?
    Trekking will continue, but will that alone provide enough income to Sherpas whom earned enough in two months to provide for their families the entire year?
    No amount of money is worth a life, but what will the Sherpa do if trekking is not enough?

  16. Peak Freaks canceled as well. Tim’s message seems to indicate he won’t be back at Everest for some time.

    • The Peak Freaks blog is particularly telling. The situation at BC seems completely untenable, at least for this season ( http://peakfreaks8000.blogspot.co.uk/ ). I personally think it was the right decision.

      Thank you Alan for your excellent updates as usual.

      • Yes, I think the operators are particularly appalled by the threat of violence against their sherpas and don’t want any part of that. I give it 24 hours before Himex calls it off as well.

  17. I read an infuriating take on all of this in a fool-hearty article by the Guardian and I am reminded how much I appreciate your fair and compassionate approach to reporting, Alan.

  18. Alan I’m curious to know whether there are any teams of independent climbers that want to try and put their own route in and still climb? Out of respect for the deaths I would think there are people that still want to climb to honor the ones that died…. On the flipside out of respect for the deaths I think there are climbers that also just want to go home.

  19. Alan I’m curious to know whether there are any teams of independent climbers that want to try and put their own route in and still climb? Out of respect for the deaths I would think there are people that still want to climb to honor the ones that died…. On the flipside out of respect for the deaths I think there are climbers that also just want to go home.

  20. Is this the end of comradeship in the climbing community as we once knew it ?

  21. FWIW, recognizing nothing replaces a chance at a summit, the climbers whose trips have been canceled should receive pro-rated refunds via their travel insurance. They will not lose the whole amount; far from it.

    • The point is that with AAI, AC, IMG and others canceling their climbs there is not enough manpower or time to fix rope and establish camps before the summit window closes even if the sherpa of the remaining expeditions decide to come back to work.

  22. Hi everone.
    I’ve been following along this blog since the 2009 season and I’m wondering if this has occurred before on Everest, ending the season early with no chance at a summit (south side at least)?

  23. When you have crowds of toiling Sherpas making dozens of trips up and down the Khumbu icefall, probably the most dangerous place on the face of the earth, laying miles of ropes and ladders, chopping steps in the ice, hauling up food and supplies, etc. while their wealthy employers relax in base camp enjoying their cappuccinos and satellite TVs, this tragedy was not a matter of if, but when.

    Enough. It’s time to step back and take a whole new look at what an Everest expedition is, and what it should be.

  24. Allan, thanks for all the updates,
    This is an opportunity to climb Everest without all commercialization and politics of the mountain, imagine going up without all the lines and being able to do a summit bid when the conditions are the best not when it is your turn to get in line. No waiting 2+ hours at the Hilary Step for people to be coerced up or down the fixed lines. I hope that some groups stay and make attempts from the south, without being ferried by helicopter to Camp 1, and climb without the mountain mafia that rule the mountain.
    I would like to see a good solid team climb the mountain with or without Sherpa support, hopefully at this point the Sherpa would not be hand holding, as the climbing will be much more challenging without being previously fixed, but a true climbing partner, this would be a change in mentality from the recent years it seems that motivation is money if you use their ropes and hold the mountain as ransoms if they don’t get there way.
    People who climb big mountains need to provide for themselves and this includes carry their own items fix their own ropes and cook their own food that is what mountaineering is about.
    Yes there are risks in climbing and being able to make educated decision from experience and knowledge is part being on a mountain, knowing when to go up and when to go down is a key factor while climbing. It seems that much of this has been lost in the commercialization of Everest.

  25. Allan,

    Thank you so much for your coverage of this difficult time. I am shocked and saddened by the events of the past week.

    TG

  26. Alan, thanks so much for your in-depth coverage of this, and any other season. I have a question regarding the climbers who were in camps 1 and 2 at the time of the avalanche: how did they get down? Did the Icefall Doctors make a route for them? Helicopters?
    Thanks so much :)

  27. Oh god !!

  28. Elizabeth, most of the agreements that climbers sign with expedition companies are pretty clear on a no-refund policy for circumstances beyond the direct control or direct gross negligence of the expedition company. I suspect you’ll see a shift in the public statements from the expedition companies from “We can’t climb without the Sherpas” to “The Icefall route is too dangerous to climb this season”. The later position will afford the companies a better defence to any claims brought by clients. It’s a sad reality, but there can be no guarantees in mountaineering (with respect to your safety or achieving a summit). I expect that while companies won’t likely provide refunds (in whole or part) to clients, they may, to maintain goodwill, offer discounts to climbers who decide to return and climb again in 2015 (similar to what Himex did previously when it cancelled its expedition). Regardless, just a terrible tragedy this year; however these will, unfortunately, not be the last lives lost on a mountaineering expedition.

  29. It just has to be so hard – losing family members in such an awful way, then having financial security threatened.

  30. I have a nasty feeling people are going to sue the climbing companies for not being able to climb. I think this even happened in 1996? I also think the Sherpa are right to ask for more money; I can understand why the clients can’t help out with ropes etc., but the guides could–they’ve been there before. It seems wrong and racist, if that’s the word, or classist to get the Sherpa to do all the dirty work.

  31. Alan, do you think there may now be a more robust Fall (post monsoon) climbing season for Everest this year?

  32. David, climber Bill Burke has been posting updates discussing the same grief on that side. Many of their Sherpa were related to the ones on died on the south – it is a large family. As for climbing, there will be no impact unless the Sherpas in support of the south side Sherpas leave.

  33. I wonder what the sentiment on the other side has been. I am sure everyone was saddened by the deaths but plan on climbing on. Are there similar discussions about the porters and their pay? This does mean that the summit will be a very different place for those climbing from the North side.

  34. Thanks for the informative updates.

  35. Ian, yes so far. There may be an impact for some of the Sherpas climbing on that side but many teams now use Tibetans for support.

  36. Lisa, every team will manage paying Sherpas differently. Most are paid on a per carry/load basis so no carries, no pay. Others get a flat salary, others get a daily rate. Some teams have offered to pay them in full no matter what happens. For many long time teams, Sherpa are family and they are taken care of climb or not …

  37. I assume all is business as normal on the north side do you think Alan?

  38. Isaac, The West Ridge is extremely difficult and dangerous. Some of the world’s best climbers attempted it a couple of years ago and gave up. Also it is normally approached from Camp 2 in the Western Cwm thus still requiring climbing through the Icefall.

  39. Missing a chance to climb is a bit gutting, but to lose members of your family plus the loss of the vital income they bring on top of that must be completely devastating.

  40. You can say that again. Wow….IMG.

  41. Hi Alan, can you briefly explain what factors result in south Everest attempts going through the Khumbu icefall instead of up the West Ridge? Thanks!

  42. Does this mean that the Sherpas will not be paid for the season? Are they paid ahead of time? I can only imagine how hard this will hit their families on top of losing family members in the avalanche. Some families, I guess, will get the life insurance if they lost a close family member. What a terribly, terribly difficult decision for the Sherpas. They are in my thoughts.

  43. Does this mean that the Sherpas will not be paid for the season? Are they paid ahead of time? I can only imagine how hard this will hit their families on top of losing family members in the avalanche. Some families, I guess, will get the life insurance if they lost a close family member. What a terribly, terribly difficult decision for the Sherpas. They are in my thoughts.

    • every team will manage paying Sherpas differently. Most are paid on a per carry/load basis so no carries, no pay. Others get a flat salary, others get a daily rate. Some teams have offered to pay them in full no matter what happens. For many long time teams, Sherpa are family and they are taken care of climb or not …

  44. Like Graham Ross I am gutted for all, especially Ellis as like many more it was a lifetime dream. Cheers Kate

  45. So sad as the impact on the Sherpa community will take a long time to heal.
    When you pony up to everest nothing is guaranteed, as I have been through this in 2012 .

  46. If this is final… then it is a big loss for the already beleaguered Sherpa community and also for the climbers who had pooled in everything for a lifetime chance to crack the summit of the ultimate peak of all.. The holy grail… Choomolunga… Sagarmatha or Everest as we all know better. Deepest condolences to all the families who lost their precious lifes and to the climbers God will surely give you another chance to summit Everest. OM mane padme hum

  47. So sad for everyone, unbelievable. Cheers Kate

  48. Sad all the way around. Now dream crushing…. So many friends gave up so much for this. I wonder if there is any chance that IMG is either bluffing or has a contingency in case the political climate changes in the next few days. If Greg Vernovage says it’s time to go, then it’s time to go… Will this turn people away from the sport or will this bring new people in. Are there any similarities to 1996? Time will tell. Thanks Alan for ALL your work.

  49. Thanks for the update Alan Arnette and good interview with NBC.

  50. Doesn’t ending the season early, now, build resentment for future seasons?

  51. I’m disappointed for Greg and his IMG team members. Greg is a great climbing guide and I’m sure he would have continued if there was any way to do that safely. It must be bitterly disappointing for the members and I would imagine will have a longer term impact on the trust level between the guide services and sherpa community.

  52. So Alan, what is the status with regards to refunds, reimbursement of costs like time, effort, loss of work etc…., plus all of the monies paid by climbers? Or is that considered a risk that we take?

    • In general, clients do not receive refunds regardless of circumstances. In 2012 when Himex canceled their season, there were no refunds but discounts on future climbs. Almost all the money is spent up front on supplies, permits, transportation, labor so very little is left at this point.

      • And as a result Himex reputation suffered a sever blow, business evaporated in 2013 and has not recovered (some say it never will, or their position is now compromised due to their actions in 2012). Clients understand expedition companies have up front costs, but those of us spending 10’s of 1,000’s, and more, to these companies are getting pretty tired footing the bills and bearing their business risk. Alan, your site is extremely respected and important to the community, “almost all the money spent up front…” is not correct. Please don’t mislead your readers.

        • Thanks John, perhaps you have different numbers or information than I do. Clearly I do not mislead readers based on my own information. FYI, Himex had a very large team this year, similar to 2012.

  53. I am sad for the lost sherpas, their families and for everyone who is impacted. Strength and peace to all.

  54. Are there now laws that prevent climbing without sherpa support?

    • I am sure there aren’t but most teams would find it impossible to continue without Sherpa support. Many people have summited without support but these are generally professional climbers who know what they are doing and need minimal support. The trouble last year centred around a ground of very experienced climbers who were climbing without Sherpa support. I don’t mean to over-simplify a more complicated issue but just point out that there are individuals who will climb without Sherpa support. Most of the people on the group teams however have neither the skill nor the wish to drag their own kit up the mountain and deal with all their own needs. Again, not trying to generalise but I think that is the general situation.

  55. Devastating news for all concerned!

  56. Gutted for everyone. but especially Ellis. Gutted.

  57. Wow. Shattered lives. Shattered dreams.