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Apr 242014

Note and Update 4: Changed the headline of this post to be more accurate as the mountain is not “officially” closed whatever that means. That said,  all the major teams  have left leaving a few tiny ones and perhaps the Russians but who knows how they will climb with no support in the Icefall. Not impossible but very, incredibly difficult and time is running out with the monsoon season approach at the end of May. Not  a lot of time to acclimatize.

This situation has been the most difficult I have ever covered about Everest since 2002. There are lies, manipulation, misdirection, confusion … I did my to keep track of it and apologize when I got it wrong, but corrected it as soon I found out.

I have updated this post by striking through the incorrect parts as of April 27, 2014. Also, I have added emphasis on the subtle points that deserve more attention. But this statement I stand by:

My view is Everest is like an airport with the terminal open but the runways closed.

Update 3: The final large #Everest2014 teams that might have climbed declare the end: Himex and Altitude Junkies.

Update2: I knew this would happen and I apologize. The Ministry of Tourism issued a press release saying the mountain is open and everyone is welcome to climb. (see at bottom of this post).

Teams are packing even after this release. The future climbing plans all have to do with the Icefall Doctors and if they will stay and mange the route through the icefall. They have been threatened, their families have been threatened if they stay and they have told other teams they are leaving. This could change if the military comes in but it still leaves their families at risk.

I have heard of no teams planning to climb and at least 10 have said they are leaving officially including: AC, AAI, IMG, JG, AT – these are the largest teams with the most Sherpa who do all the real work, without them, the season is over. The remaining wild card is Himex and Altitude Junkies who have not said anything official but it would be tough for them to go on their own, but not impossible.

Update 1: Of note, just as I published this, a few people said the mountain had not been closed and we still have not seen official statements from some remaining teams including Himex, Altitude Junkies and Asian Trekking.  I guess there is always a tiny chance something might change … this is how it goes on Everest.

Original Post:

A representative from Nepal’s Ministry finally came to Everest Base Camp on Thursday April 24, 2014 after several teams announced they were ending their seasons to officially close say Everest is open and everyone is welcome climbing from Nepal. He made an offer to honor climbing permits for five years.

Even without this ‘official’ closure, the mountain was effectively shut down anyway. The reasons are a bit more complicated than a sound bite or headline.  And the long term implications are unknown, real and frankly disturbing for mountaineering in general.

In this post, I’ll try to provide the big picture based on my knowledge of the situation at Everest, my own experiences and my own judgment. These are my opinions and no one else’s.

There are three reasons that brought a halt to the Everest 2014 season from Nepal: safety, respect and money. Let’s look at them individually before looking at the future.


The ice serac that collapsed on April 18 had been identified as an objective hazard for years. In fact it has released ice into the Khumbu Icefall almost every season in recent memory. In 2012 it narrowly missed many climbers. But knowing about it and doing something about are two different things. It is simply impossible to ‘remove’ the danger so all you can do is try to avoid it.

This year, the Icefall Doctors took the route more to the center than they had for years tying to anticipate a collapse. Sadly it was not far enough. This is also difficult as taking it too far away from the West Shoulder moves the route closer to Nuptse which also has seracs and avalanche danger. Plus that side of the Icefall has very deep and dangerous crevasses. So no good solution exist.

The Icefall itself seems to be more unstable, especially the upper part where it tips over from the Western Cwm. In this area, the ice blocks are huge, teetering and ready to collapse at any moment without notice. Again, there is little to do about this only to get through the area as fast as possible.

So when you put all of this together, given the recent collapse, it was reasonable for everyone to be wary of returning to this area right now. In the end, many people , but not all, felt it was simply too dangerous to keep climbing and there are no real alternatives this late in the season such as using helicopters to bypass the Icefall.


Mount Everest is a sacred mountain to the people of Tibet and Nepal, with special significance to the Sherpa people. The Tibetans call Everest, Chomolungma or mother goddess of the universe. The Nepalese call Everest, Sagarmatha,  goddess of the sky. When you summit Everest you do not stand on the very top as it would be disrespectful so you claim the summit a couple of steps lower.

Many in the Sherpa community feel Chomolungma is angry and saying not to climb this year.

With 16 Sherpa deaths in an area every person would have to pass through to reach the Western Cwm, there is a matter of respect for the fallen. There are still missing Sherpa who have not been found in that area, presumably.

Out of respect for the mountain and for their fellow Sherpa, some in the community felt it would be disrespectful to continue climbing this year.


This is probably the most distasteful part of this season. The Sherpas from porters to cooks to climbing Sherpa to Sidars often felt their pay was not commensurate with their risk. They had made this case to operators and Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism for years.

As the skills of the climbing Sherpa have increased through efforts like the Khumbu Climbing Center and simply climbing for years beside certified professional western guides, some of the climbing Sherpa have earned International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA) certification after personal investments and years of tests. Many felt they should be paid the same as guides working for western companies.

The issue of life insurance has also been around for years with an uneven application by some western and Nepalese guide services. Previously the benefit was $4000, barley enough to cover burial costs and the annual remembrance ceremony that are customary in Nepal. It left families without their primary earner to depend on others to survive in an already difficult part of the world. For 2014 it was increased to $10,000, still insufficient for the remaining family.

Overall, the issue of compensation took center stage with the deaths of so many. To add to the situation, the Nepal government takes in over $3 million in permit fees each year for Everest and little to none of that money makes it way to the people and villages in the Khumbu.

Summarizing all this, some in the Sherpa community felt this was the time to take a stand to get the attention of operators, the government and the world. They gave the government a list of demands, the government agreed but the Sherpa didn’t believe them. After a heated series of meetings in Kathmandu, the government agreed to send a representative to base camp presumably to negotiate. He arrived and promptly shut down the mountain.


Independent and well before the government closure, looking at all three of these areas, apparently a few vocal leaders in the Sherpa community felt they had no choice but to stop climbing. During meetings, it got ugly with hot debates on both sides. Some worried about their future if the climbing stopped, others worried they would never make progress if the climbing continued.

Threats were made to Sherpas who didn’t agree to stop climbing – threats against them and their families. This has happened before when the Maoists were more visible in Nepal threatening those who didn’t make payments for protection or to do what they were told. This history is real and recent.

Once again the Nepal government responded too late by trying to send the military to maintain control. They tried but were stopped by altitude issues. Missing in all this was the government office the Ministry told the world they would set up to maintain control from the start of the season. A continuing trend from previous years, few officials and liaison officers were present to do their job.

Looking at threats, safety, respect and money; many Sherpa felt they had no choice but to stop climbing.

The commercial teams are 100% dependent on the Sherpa to fix the route through the icefall, to carry loads to the high camps and support the foreign climbers on their summit pushes. In the end, the commercial operators were left with no choice. Even the couple of independent teams assumed the Icefall would be fixed with ladders thus were also thwarted in their attempts.


Climbing in Nepal has changed forever. Some western guides are questioning if they will ever return to Everest based on safety. Others are wondering if they can trust the political environment ever again. I have not heard one operator question the loyalty of their Sherpa as almost anyone looking at this situation feel they are the loser with lost work and income.

Without a doubt, climbing Everest can be made safer but it will change the way the mountain is climbed. Using helicopters to ferry gear above the Khumbu Icefall is one way. Previously the Ministry refused to allow this but now are considering it.

Guides will have to dig deep in reviewing their programs as to who they take on as members, their experience, and skills. The price will almost definitely go up, perhaps significantly thus further reducing the number of climbers on Everest, not a bad thing.

I don’t know what will happen, obviously. 2015 will be a milestone year. Will we see more talk and no action? Will the changes be real to improve safety and reduce crowds? Will Everest lose it’s magic?

Personally, I don’t think Everest will ever lose it’s magic or it’s magnetism. It is the world’s highest mountain deserving all the respect she demands. The question is how and if the climbing world can meet those demands.

I’ll keep working hard to update everyone on the continuing story plus follow the climbers on the North side. So stay with me, it’s not over.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

Personal Update – Climbing K2

At the end of each Everest season, many of my regular followers ask if I will cover the climbing season in the Karakorum. Well, I’m going to do better than just cover it for 2014, I’m going to attempt to summit K2 this summer. I plan on covering like it’s never been covered by being there myself, and invite you to join me in a unique, fun and rewarding way.

As many of you know, my passion is climbing and my purpose is Alzheimer’s. So with that cause, I will climb the world’s hardest mountain to raise awareness and funds to fight the world’s hardest disease.  Be my hero and join the climb, join the fight. K2 as you’ve never seen it. More details on May 1.


Nepal Press Release

English press Release 001

  198 Responses to “Everest 2014: Everest Nepal Functionally Closed: The Big Picture – Update 4”


    While it may seem fair to say that a sherpa guide should earn the same as the western guide, I think the reality would cause a huge rift in their social structure. Already they earn 10 times the average national wage. Can you imagine what would happen if this amount suddenly became 71 times? Times that by a few years as a guide. I certainly don’t think it would lead to anyone’s happiness in the community. They would just end up with a westernised capitalist social structure, pitting one against the other. Money being the basic problem in this current situation.

    I think the government should be asking for more money from westerners and subsequently putting more money back into the community.


    Hi Alan. I have a friend who is due to go on a hiking tour only as far as Base Camp (southern side) in early May. They are tourists, not climbers and won’t be trying to summit. Do you think the Sherpas pulling out will affect their group ? ?


    Just very very sad, from the tragic loss of Sherpa life in the avalanche to the cancellations of expeditions 🙁 . This has given my younger brother (who is dead against me attempting Everest in 2017 only more ammo! I feel for all the guys who have saved huge amounts of money and put in hours of training, only to lose everything. It’s one thing failing to summit due to personal endurance, health or other things but another to not even be able to make an attempt


      Dear Divyesh,

      The people who “saved huge amounts of money and put in hours of training, only to lose everything” did not lose their lives, only an Everest bid.

      There’s always the risk of a climb getting cancelled which includes the mountain’s own weather. Mountaineers know this and the loss of money is factored in as part of the risk. I would think the members know this too.

      There is no price (really) for the impact on the sherpa community who lost fathers, husbands, sons, cousins & friends.

      Best of luck to you in life and to Alan on K2.

      Mary Ellen


    Nicely written Alan – Rob Chang here from he 2005 Climbingforacure team- I eerily now recollect the article/dispatch I had written in 2005 when teams then thought there may be no summits that season- I remember Apa Sherpa saying maybe the mountain wants a rest and none of us may get to the top- it looks like that season has finally come- just wanted to say hello and thanks for your continued efforts- RIP our good Sherpa friends–good luck on K2 and be safe- Godspeed-
    Robert Chang



    Good luck on K2 I can not wait for more news to come

    Ed Buck


    Minor little nit pick but “Sagarmatha” isn’t “goddess of the sky”. Literally the word means ocean churn from “sagar” – ocean and “matha” – churn. Goes back to the old Hindu legend of the Gods and Demons churning the ocean using a mountain as the churn and a snake as the rope that turned the churn (sort of like the old butter churns). According to myth the churn was a huge mountain (as in Everest) in the middle of the primeval ocean.

    The interesting thing of course is that current geological theory holds that the Himalayas as we now know them lay at the bottom of a sea (the Tethys Sea). The coming together of the southern landmass (Panagea) and the northern mass is what raised the Himalayas (which continue to rise even today). So the myths of old seem to have some sort of founding in what is today accepted as fact, even though this may have happened hundreds of millions of years ago!

    Good luck on K2.

    Hi Alan I found this beautiful article from a young Nepali woman on the aebsite of the alpinist and thought it might provide food for thoughts reflection away from the media brawl. Hope you and others might enjoy it.


    As far as I am concerned if Everest gets harder to get to its a good thing. Hopefully this will be resolved next year and deserving (experienced) climbers aren’t kept away permanently.

    I dream of going to K2, good luck and come home safe. Alas, I will be lucky if I make it to Mt Washington this summer, but this will take me closer to my goal of getting in as many U.S. State High Points as possible.


    This horrible event makes me wonder. Can they fly up a small cannon and blast the most dangerous ice seracs before the season even gets into full swing? Something similar to what ski resorts do. I imagine they could load a custom powder charge just strong enough to knock down overhanging ice in March or something before Sherpas arrive. I know the Himalaya are sacred mountains, but in the name of using science to mitigate the dangers of avalanches and deaths, why not?


      Hey Jared, Why not just blow the top 1000 ft off the mountain to make it easier? Create that heliport above the icefall or maybe even better on the south summit. Then build a catwalk with heating to the summit? Technology has proved it can tame just about everything. The whole point of Everest is to climb the natural feature. The big expeditions have already debased it with huge comfortable camps insulating their members from reality.


        Wow..those are all great points! I do think there is the technology to lower the mountain 1000 ft! I doubt the Sherpas or operators would be too offended if a very obvious, super dangerous piece of ice was mechanically knocked down to prevent it crushing 16 people. Since this would have little change on the natural feature of the mountain (assuming it worked), you could probably stop crying about it. If you’re capable.


      t h e m o u n t a i n i s s a c r e d
      what part of your own adjective do you not understand?


      Finally someone who thinks like I do. I could not understand why it would not be possible to set off charges that were dropped by helicopter….thus eliminating the dangerous avalanches that occur in the falls…


    Great coverage as always Alan. I am thrilled to hear you are going to try K2! Way to crank it up big time!


    Why not try Mount Annapurna?


      Too dangerous and I’m not good enough! I think K2 will be just fine David 🙂


        Alan, I admire your attempting K2. Are you saying Annapurna is more dangerous/harder than K2? I thought everyone agreed K2 was the toughest. What are your thought?


          A lot depends on the route. K2 is widely accepted as “difficult” as is Annapurna. In terms of stats, the death per summit % for Annapurna is 35% and 26% for K2. By the way, Everest is 3.8%


    a beautiful post about respecting the Kumbu and straying off the highway to lesser known but just as forboding territory.


    First of all, thank you for the great coverage of this tragic Everest season, Alan!

    I just came across this message on the website of Arnold Coster Expeditions:

    “Team Meeting In Base Camp
    Our team is ready to climb and none of our Sherpa’s or Members want to quit. Only a decision from Ministery level can stop us!”

    Wow! K2! I wish you all the best!


    Thanks for all the updates. I love your coverage every year. Are teams still going forward on the North Face Routes? Is this affecting their climb?


    I hear there is a Russian team that is not leaving and will carry on unsupported. Alan, you will still be covering Everest north side and possibly these Russians, yes?


      Yes Randy as much as I can. Traditionally Russian climbers don’t talk much about what they are planning or doing – they just do it! Yes, covering the north until they summit


    Tourism Minister was into Everest Base Camp and there was gathering and discussion there…
    Hope they solved it……


    Alan – I have enjoyed your Everest blog over the last few years and appreciate the updated info and your insight into this tragedy. Best wishes on your K2 adventure – I donated in your honor. Looking forward to your posts on the climb!


    good luck on your K2 climb sir Alan…. keep safe always…


    Good luck on K2 Alan, you’ll have to dust off that second axe for this one!! I admired the ambition and look forward to being inspired by your stories.


    Do you think large commercial organizations (fearing the loss of revenues and sustainability if their business) could/would come together to hire a non-local crew to be new “ice fall doctors”?


    Thanks for your brilliant coverage of events on Everest this season, Alan; it is a sad state of affairs on and off the mountain in Nepal. Let us hope for more positive news from K2 – best of luck!


    Thank you for your write-ups, keeps us in touch with what is going on up there, very interesting and informative. It is however very sad that although I empathise with the sherpa, not many spare a thought for the climbers that are being punished for political agendas. My sister is on the mountain and hoped to summit this season. The amount of money, time and effort it takes to get there is unbelievable. It is a once in a lifetime thing for most (I know how hard she worked to save up this money and all the training that was put in) and this seems to be overlooked due to the politics. According to the groups that are the last to leave it is not about the safety of the mountain, hence the announcement from the ministry that the mountain is still open.


    K2 wow !!


    First of all, thank you for the great coverage of this tragic Everest season, Alan!

    I just came across this message on the website of Arnold Coster Expeditions:

    “Team Meeting In Base Camp
    Our team is ready to climb and none of our Sherpa’s or Members want to quit. Only a decision from Ministery level can stop us!”

    Wow! K2! I wish you all the best!


    Best of luck on K2! This armchair climber will be following your adventures as reported on your blog. Be safe!



    Which guide service do you plan to climb with on K2? Adventure Peaks or Alpine?

    All the best,


    Alan, have just discovered your blog, through one of the many articles I’ve read this past week about the recent tragic loss of life on Everest. Sad and bittersweet on so many levels. Thank you for your on-site reporting and knowledge. Hoping that much good will come from this tragedy, especially for the sherpas. Meanwhile, like others … K2!!! Wow!! Will look forward to following your expedition! Blessings and be safe.


    Great to hear of your upcoming expedition to K2, the mountaineers mountain. I wish you the very best !!


    Phurba will not be rising above the tie this year.

    What will Russell Brice do next year? Try Tibet again? The South Side has not been good for his business.


    Nice write up Alan.



    First I want to thank you for the effort you put into your blog… I’ve been lurking here for years now and read your posts religiously… I’m not a climber myself, but am completely riveted by the idea of it and read everything related to it… but, your blog is my absolute FAVORITE… so thank you for your well balanced and passionate words… they have moved me to joy & tears on more occasions then you can imagine
    I’m completely broken hearted by the tragic nature of this season.. First the accident, and then everything that has gone on since… my heart and prayers go out to all involved and their families.

    Your news about K2!!!!.. Thank you for giving us a preamble about the good(?) news on your next adventure… I am both excited and frightened for you… such a big mountain… such a huge goal.. I can’t wait to read all about it and wish you well…

    The main reason I’m writing (as opposed to the lurking I usually do) is that YOU have moved me to make a donation in your name to your Alzheimer research… I’ve also been affected by this tragic disease and give other money to this cure as much as I can.

    This time I’m going to do it in your name… Usually I donate to worthy charities in private… but this time I’m putting it out there… loud and proud… to all you other lurkers and climbers as a challenge
    Come on everyone… Alan does so much for us… Let’s do something for him to show our appreciation…

    I’ve just donated $500 in his name to Alzheimer research and will donate another $500 after his K2 trip (as I need time to save the $ for the second donation)… so there it is… Let’s do something for a really incredible man that is doing something amazing for us… I challenge everyone who reads this note and his blog to dig deep for your their first donation and sacrifice to get to your match goal… Alan’s climbing mountains for us…

    we can skip a few lattes (or meals) for him… let’s show him how much we care and appreciate him



      Nancy, you made my day and gave me strength to go tomorrow. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


        crying now.. such a little thing I did.. but such a large thing you do… love you for it… and God speed… my thoughts will be with you always.. every step.. never doubt that there are lurkers out there that care and wish you well



    Here’s a great read from the Everest base camp for those interested.

    And apologies if I’m “spamming” on the comment section, but thought this might interest many of you. Just picked this up from twitter.


      Mickey, thanks. Great read. If those local folks revving this up are the same ones throwing punches last season we should at least know their names to stop smearing the other hard working folks there trying to earn their way. Contemptible unionised tactics in the midst of tragedy, even when it is from potentially less sophisticated participants annoys me greatly. Peace to those affected by your recent loss.


        Craig and Randy, You both are making a great point. Never thought of that myself but now when I think about it, it could be there’s a connection indeed.

        When it comes to Ueli and Simone and fight last year, I do not see a reason why those guys would have lied about it. Seems that something’s happening in younger Sherpa community, maybe they just have enough of seeing everyone else taking the big bucks home and they want to take over no matter what. My thoughts only though, I am in no position to criticize anyone and I will keep looking into it with an open mind. Yet I feel that from now on Everest is going to be very different place for years to come. So much has changed and happened in the past week.


      Craig, I have been thinking about simone and ueli a lot in the last few days. I am now convinced their version of the story was the truth and that they were assaulted for no good reason. If last year they had properly dealt with that fight and expelled the violent individuals from the mountain instead of brushing it under the rug, this year’s situation may not have deteriorated to such a low point.

      I think senior sherpas, the Nepali government, and the commercial expeditions all share the blame for not nipping the violence in the bud last year.


        Can take a lot for things to go from what may be considered a generally appropriate response to way outta line, even up there. Stress, tiredness, frustrations, resentment, emotional immaturity, personality type, jealously, cultural differences, age, not knowing your place, or the facts are just a few of the multitude. But if you get bent outta shape you are responsible for your actions, as I think those guys were; partially or fully, who knows?. But I was always surprised those violent folks weren’t at least sacked and sent from the time last year, and not back without supervision this year, if at all. Can someone tell me how these guys are there still, if in fact they are the same few? Would have thought they were in the employ of someone. If so, who and what responsibility for their staff do they have? Sounds like its a mute point now anyways but never liked it last year when the nameless few tarnished the rest. Cheers, C.


    Thanks for excellent blog, dialog on the issues with a minimum of drama. I respect your opinion and look forward to your reports from K2!


    I would like to say Mr. Arnette, your blog on April 22 contains some good words of wisdom. I have enjoyed your site for years. Thank you.


    I have never ever climbed and I’m most likely never going to climb either. Therefore I have absolutely no right to criticize and this post of mine has absolutely nothing to do with criticizing anyone.

    But.. I guess I start to understand the meaning of term summit fever even here from my home, far away from those mountains. The disappointment that I have in a way that I can’t follow these men and women getting up the mountain and summit, it’s a strange one. Now if I imagine myself being in that base camp wanting to get up, just gives me so much more respect for the guys like Ed Viesturs and so many others who turn back just below the summit.

    Now that being said. Decision to go home is 100% the right call to do from my humble opinion, said here from the comfort of my home.


    Thanks for all of the updates, Alan. Looking forward to following your K2 adventure.


    The final large #Everest2014 teams that might have climbed declare the end: Himex and Altitude Junkies.


    Any word on the feelings and/or opinions of the north face Sherpa?


    Alan – Congratulations on making the decision to climb K2 and best of luck! I can’t help but think of those 18 summits in both 2007 and 2008 and that with the right team, training, knowledge and mental determination that this mountain is doable. Yes, I know the death to summit ratios don’t look very appealing and I know about the death last year and the previous no summits the year(s) before. But you are an experienced climber and should be able to read ‘the signs’ if conditions and/or timing is not right. I believe Garrett Madison is going this year as well. Go early. Enjoy and I can’t wait to follow along!


    I respect the sherpas choice. And no no no please don’t attempt K2! Killer mountain Alan…killer!


    Great news about K2 Alan really excited,about the only good news to come out of the last few weeks.


    All the best Alan for your K2 trip


    Thanks very much for your excellent reporting at this very difficult time Alan.
    it’s great to have a constant reliable source of information amongst the rumours coming from the mainstream media


    Same Lisa


    Alan, I haven’t heard from the Monizes. Have you? Triple 8? Last I heard, they were going to see what they could do about the north side, as they are already in Tibet.


    Best of luck on K2 Alan!


    Best of luck on K2 Alan!


    Thanks for keeping us posted. Your coverage has been really helpful in following things.


    Thanks for keeping us posted. Your coverage has been really helpful in following things.


    Not reliable information about Everest Official Closed, too much gossip and self promotion on I KNEW IT. Well it is NOT officialy closed yet