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.
Memories are Everything