Everest 2014: Violence, Threats, Intimidation

Sherpas at Everest Camp 2Teams are packing on the Nepal side and still climbing on the North as the aftermath of the Sherpa tragedy slowly winds down. A few small teams remain at the Nepal Everest Base Camp holding onto a tiny bit of hope for a chance to climb this year, but it is quickly slipping away. There is a report that a Russian team is still there wanting to climb. If anyone can do it without support it will be these tough climbers.

Some news outlets are reporting on another avalanche. It is important to remember that avalanches occur all the time on these big mountains, daily. Most everyone who spends anytime at Everest Base Camp can get footage of slips off Pumori or the Lo Lha Pass above EBC. This is not news or anything unusual.

On the North side, teams are now at Advanced Base Camp on their first acclimatization rotations. 72 year-old American, Bill Burke, reports all is well. Other reports say the weather is good.

The Triple 8 team on Cho Oyu is making good progress and hope to summit in early May. They continue to look at ways to keep their dream of summiting Everest alive.

 South Side Update – Violence and Intimidation

In spite of a last minute press release from Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism on Thursday declaring the mountain open and welcome to all climbers, all the major teams whose Sherpa support is required to fix the ropes to the summit choose to leave.  The last few teams that had largest resources, Altitude Junkies, Himex and Asian Trekking ended their efforts late Thursday.

Greg Paul with Himex made this revealing post on what really happened. I have mentioned threats and violence but this paints the picture well:

It has been 7 days since the devastating avalanche. 5 days ago my group finished their acclimatization cycle on Lobuche peak and returned to Everest base camp. We attended the memorial for the 16 Sherpas who perished. Unfortunately the ceremony was “hijacked” at the end by some Nepalese pseudo guides that are not from the Khumbu Valley and who have Maoist roots. They incite other Sherpas to bully and use violence to get their way. Their purpose seems less about honoring those who died and more focused on getting power/influence. Intimidation has been their primary means to accomplish their power grab.

Over the last few days the large expeditions have been canceling their season like falling dominos. First, it was the expeditions that had lost Sherpas that cancelled…which is very understandable. The remaining expedition leaders determined that the icefall was safe and that avalanches were no more prone that any normal year. They also felt that the mourning period had been adequate and climbing Everest would not dishonor those who died.

Additionally, they know better than any one that the Sherpas sole source of income come from these expeditions. However, the militant group of violence prone out-of-towners wanted to capitalize on the situation to get long needed concessions from the Nepalase government. They felt closing Everest for the season would get everyone’s attention. First we heard that expeditions would be allowed to climb if they wanted. In reality, the Sherpas on the teams were told their legs would be broken if they took members onto Everest. Expeditions were told to leave base camp within days or they would be forcibly removed. These guys use sticks, stones and machetes to get their way so this was not very comforting news.

Another startling perspective comes from Tim Mosedale. This is a long but worthwhile read.

Time and again the Sherpas have stated that their argument is not with the Westerners and there is no animosity towards us. Their beef is with the government. They are sorry that we are caught in this tangled web on the sidelines but at the same time we (and the mountain) are being used as political leverage to get what they want. Obviously everyone wants better working conditions for the Sherpas but by holding us to ransom they are controlling the situation.

In addition to the shattered lives for the families of the fallen Sherpa, there are also shattered dreams. 18 year-old Alex Staniforth probably summed it up :

It’s with bitter disbelief and immense disappointment to confirm my Everest 2014 expedition is over. I am utterly gutted- I cannot pretend otherwise.  Sadly this is entirely due to civil strife and politics- circumstances fully beyond our control.

Our expedition leaders fought very hard and decided we would persevere until the very end unlike most of the other teams, in the hope this very frustrating and difficult situation would be resolved. Sadly as other teams pulled out the strength in numbers disappeared and the pointless politics got no further. This morning Henry Todd, our base camp manager told us we too had no option but to head down. I will never forget those gut wrenching words.

Shutting Down

A huge issue now in how to get all the equipment they had already carried to Camps 1 and 2 in the Western Cwm back down given the issues withe the Icefall. Eric Simonson, IMG, posted this update:

In what may be a precedent-setting move, the Ministry has now granted permits for gear flights to the Western Cwm. IMG has teamed up with seven other Everest teams to charter a B3 helicopter tomorrow to insert a team of sherpas at Camps 1 and 2. There are now four companies in Nepal that operate this more powerful turbo-charged version of the AS350.

For IMG, we plan to send Phunuru and Chewang to Camp 2 and Kami and Karma Rita to Camp 1. Their mission will be to finish dismantling those camps and get all the gear either sent down to Base Camp by helicopter or secured for next year’s climb.  The maximum payload for one flight to/from Camp 1 will be about 200 kilos and to/from Camp 2 will be about 100 kilos, depending on the fuel load, temperature, wind, and ultimately the pilot’s discretion. Sounds like the pilot is initially planning to land at the camps and have the gear loaded on board (as opposed to sling-load the gear)… but this may change depending on how it goes.

Tim Ripple, Peak Freaks gave a hint of the future with his last update saying:

We will continue to climb on smaller mountains in Nepal and do what we can to keep the industry alive in Nepal,  but we will tread softly on future plans with Everest.
The Discovery Channel leveraging the camera crew they had for the wing suit jump that will air a documentary on this years Nepal events in a 90-minute special, “Everest Avalanche Tragedy,” will air at 9 p.m. Eastern time on May 4
Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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109 thoughts on “Everest 2014: Violence, Threats, Intimidation

  1. Hi Alan. Have you had any feedback from climbers about how insurance companies are handling this cancellation? I just came back to KTM from EBC and will be useful for lot of us to know. Thanks in advance. Suneel

    1. Hi!
      I emailed my insurance company, in Belgium, and they are “checking”…
      I fear they will tell me expedition had already started, so there can be no claim made…
      The problem, WE, the members, who feed operators, who feed orkers, have no voice, no lobby…

      1. There will be a press conference tomorrow at the NMA…
        Finally, the “shit” starts hitting the fan, it seems… Today, Sunday 4th May, the Himalayan Times PERSPECTIVES ran a full page on the Everest 2014 scandal pointing at the enormity of the NO REFUND policy of operators. By pretending that all money is “gone”, they pretend that they run expedition without making profit. Which is outrageously ridiculous. It is a blunt LIE in the face of paying members.
        I SAY: NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        1. Now it gets nasty… My website has been blacklisted! A friend from South Africa just told me. I tried to access it, here in Nepal, and, yes, it is blacklisted.

  2. Another addendum to my comment earlier.

    Of the time I have been pondering this, I really can’t think of alternative solutions. Ferrying loads to the Western Comb by helicopter aligns with this philosophy, as the goal is to have Sherpas cross the icefall only one or two times, the EQUAL amount as what Westerners are doing now. However, what if a nasty storm (or other calamity) hits and 10 sherpas on the rope fixing team dies? It’ll be same thing again as this current incident. Sherpas would again erupt in anger. The unfairness and economic disparity between Sherpas and Westerners would again be in the highlight of the media. Have an equal number of Westerners and Sherpas do the dangerous work, restore harmony in the mountains, and stop the ever increasing commercialization of Everest!

    1. I pondered much and came to a similar conclusion. Two incompatible motivations at play: the adventurer who accepts — or should accept — that death is a possibility; and the worker who wants to earn money and expects to return home safely.

      Everyone who sets foot on the mountain must resign themselves to the possibility of tragedy. Contracts entered should be clear about that and terms of compensation agreed a priori. Apart from where a personal proximity to a tragic event is in play I don’t see reason to abort expeditions. Don’t like the terms don’t do it. If it means inexperienced foreigners can’t summit Everest so what, it’s left for real climbers (or not…).

      And btw, hauling foreigners up mountains is NOT a traditional Nepalese vocation. Personally I think coercing poor people to risk their lives with cash is not the way to help them – even after ‘guilt’ surcharges have been repeatedly added.

  3. This response may be a little late to this whole Everest incident. I think the MOST fundamental issue (which is obvious but overlooked) is that Westerners are paying Sherpas to do extremely hazardous work that they themselves wouldn’t risk. Fixing the Icefall, find a crevasse-free route across the Western Comb, and fixing rope up steep faces to the summit, it’s all with fatal risks even with proper training. I would definitely rather pay somebody only 1/7 of the expedition costs (70,000/7=top sherpa pay) to do that kind of work for me. Basically, sherpas in desperate economic situations are lured by this amazing sum of money to do extremely dangerous work. And that’s fairly unethical if you really think about it.

    What’s the solution? I think the only solution, although seemingly extreme, is shared risk. I’m Asian and know Asian culture. If there is shared risk, then, frankly said, everybody climbing the mountain will be like one big happy family. Asians value family and will be extremely hospitable towards them. There won’t be this constant tension and obvious divide between Westerners and Sherpas. Basically, the solution is there has to be an equal number of foreigners and Sherpas doing the dangerous work (i.e. fixing icefall and ropes). There are tons of qualified mountaineers in America, Europe, Korea, etc.

    Finally, given the economic leverage Westerners have over Sherpas, this is the only real ethical solution, I believe.

    1. Brian , your comments are sympathetic and that’s great. You are wrong on a couple of counts I believe. Firstly being that westerners employ sherpa to do work they wouldn’t do themselves. Westerners are not allowed to fix ropes in the icefall, as they do above C2. It is staffed and funded through ones permit. Sherpa have renowned strengths that allow them to work much more efficiently at altitude as we know. It would compromise safety if you forced Sherpa to work at a westerner rate, especially in the early stages of an expedition. Secondly you state an obvious divide between westerners and Sherpa. There is no divide! Keep researching and avoid the sensationalist journalism and you’ll get the facts. Yep there was a fight last year, yep the same people are causing turmoil and threatening the futures of many this year. Black sheep syndrome. The odd ones out. Troublemakers. Many western guides don’t make that much more on a day rate and are employed on a daily basis around the world, assuming risks present in the mountains. We make that choice, as do pro athletes, as do motorsport drivers etc. Lets remember its OK for a Sherpa to love mountaineering too, and its great that they can make good living doing that. We have different strengths and weaknesses, but 99.9% of the time we combine these talents and work seamlessly as a team.

      1. Hi Bruce, although I do agree with some things you’ve said, I strongly disagree with the last part of your response. As I’ve said, Sherpas do independently make their own choice to work at Everest. I’m sure for some, mountaineering is an enjoyable job. But I strongly believe that the majority do it for the money than the enjoyment of it, as opposed to motosport drivers. Yes, they made their choice fully aware of the dangers and signed a very clear, laid-out contract. However, you simply can’t use economic leverage to employ people to work extremely dangerous jobs. Simply put, that is why there are labor laws. Specifically, labor laws require work place fatalities to fall below a certain percentage. However, I’m sure the Sherpas at Everest exceed this percentage that is standard in Western countries. To me, it’s blatantly unethical. Furthermore, your last sentence can be perceived at extremely narrow-minded. Just because Sherpas are “better” at fixing rope and Westerners are “better” at managing international companies doesn’t mean they should always play these roles to make a “seamless” expedition.

        The Nepali government shouldn’t restrict fixing the icefall to only Sherpas, as they are only endangering their own people. Does anybody know the history of the establishment of the IceFall Doctors anyway? I’m sure it was just some Nepali/Sherpa people who wanted more money and Western guides being like “yeah sure, Sherpas only, I wouldn’t want to go in there anyway.”

        You know, mountaineering is actually like war because of such high risks involved. And that is why there is always a brotherhood spirit among climbers. However, if we always send the Sherpas to the frontlines, there will always be a divide.

  4. i really dont understand why always western guides want to take part of a national cause discuss. Nepal belongs to nepalese ; It is the first time nepaleses make strike climbing. It is their right .
    Now the few last expeditions, like russell Brice who always wants to domit and behaves like a king , let think that nepaleses are violent …but he would wonder …why ??? where comes this violence from?
    One day , evrybody feel sad for all sherpas victims but day after , Commercial expeditions was upset about only one thing : their little business….

      1. Interesting… thanks. I know that the writer of this blog is a non-Sherpa Nepali, and may well have his own agenda, but it is curious that many of those who dismissed the “westerner” accounts of the incident last year as one-sided in the absence of a Sherpa version of events now seem happy to accept the westerner reports of intimidation by a small group of Maoist Sherpas, largely based on rumour and without a Sherpa perspective.

  5. Jeff Brown, from HIMEX (member) http://www.brownanddoherty.com/terrorism-wins-day-22.php
    Who would have thought that terrorism would have taken over at Everest Base Camp? Our expedition, HimEx, is the last western operator still here at base camp and all of our Sherpas are back and ready to climb with us. The mountain is actually in great shape and despite the tragedy in the Khumba Ice Fall, the Khumba is also actually in its normal, though dangerous, condition. It’s not as dangerous as two years ago when the warm weather made it five times more dangerous. So the mountain is ready to be climbed…..but we aren’t going. It’s over. Despite the ministry agreeing to the demands and announcing the mountain is open, we are in the middle of a political chaos. Most of what we call “Sherpas” are from various villages in the Khumba and are Buddhist. Over the last few years, from other areas outside of here, young Maoist have arrived here and been hired by Nepalese guiding companies to be Sherpas. These Maoist are now numbering 300 and despite the ministry agreeing to their “demands,” they have imposed a strike and are threatening physical violence to any Sherpa that climbs with us. Their threats of violence are real and would exist long after the season. They have already cut the power lines to the IMG guiding company and threatened their Sherpas yesterday. Neither IMG or HimEx can protect our Sherpas on the mountain or in the villages in the months to follow. The new demand of the Maoist is to kick out the western guiding companies and western guides. They may get their wish but the death rate on the mountain will triple because, though they refuse to believe it, they don’t have the experience of the western guides and operators. The experience of the western guides and guiding companies goes back in some cases 30 years. The only reason the rescue last week was so efficient was because the western operators and guides had hundred of combined years of experience. The Maoist have won, there will be no climbing Everest from the south side this season – no one. A first. Climbing Sherpas and the hundreds of other Sherpas that cook and carry will all loose about 30% of their annual salary now. And because of the violence and threats of violence, it is expected that Everest tourism and climbing will be down 50% next year, if there is a next year. The Maoist now know terrorism works. They are already asking for money from the western operators, a blatant form of extortion, or the threat of more violence. I could go on with more examples of violence, both this year and last year, but I won’t. It’s too upsetting. First Tibet was taken over and now so is Nepal. A Sherpa way of life is ending. And for some reason I am in the epicenter of it. So we are the last western guiding company still here at EBC but we too are leaving. It’s not worth the risk to the lives of the Sherpas. Terrorism wins

    1. It’s a disturbing trend that has occurred over the last year. Nanga massacre, Everest fight and now this. I can’t help but think things will get worse before they get better.

      Unfortunately these Maoists are not interested in solving the climbing related issues on Everest so it doesn’t matter what lessons come out of the tragedy that fell 16 sherpas. I for one will be now treating my climb in Nepal this fall with a lot more trepidition.

  6. Alan, can you talk a little about the difference of the North side and if there is any Sherpa unrest in Tibet? Also are you going to cover those expeditions this year most must be at ABC by now right? Do you think more people will climb from the North next year? Will the big operators move to the north? How is it getting permits from the Chinese government?

    PS good interview on CNN and looking forward to your news on K2

    1. Thanks Toni, I’ll do a full post on the north probably tomorrow but there are 100 people there from multiple teams mostly, but not all, supported by Tibetans. There are Nepali Sherpa climbers (terminology is getting tougher) there as well, some had relatives killed in the serac release.

      They are mostly at ABC getting ready to go the the N. Col – this is their 1st rotation, some will return to CBC and return for the trip to the Col.

      I fully expect some teams move back to the North next year but honestly it has a long list of it’s own problems – politically. For example, this year the Chinese are flat out refusing new permits for Americans. Those already in Tibet are fine, but no new approvals. No reason being given. This eliminated some people for shifting to the north when Nepal had problems.

      Politics on mountains has been an age old problem going back 100 years or more.

      1. I have trekked to base camp on the north side. While my organization (IMG) was excellently run, there were others that did not have any control over their teams. IMG actually discussed not going back the next year.

        I mean seriously, the Chinese army runs a brothel at base camp! You can imagine the parties.

  7. From a Reuters-CBC article, “…And last week many sherpas were outraged that Crampton and another prominent mountaineer, New Zealander Russell Brice, had presumed to intercede on their behalf with the government….”

    This is too bad. Both those men are known to be partners with Sherpa and care about safety issues.

    I wonder if the same Sherpa that were “outraged” at Brice and Crampton were of the group that was making threats to Sherpa/Expeditions?


    1. Not sure I Sherpa outraged as both Russ and Phil are widely respected. Phil made the climb from EBC to the Popcorn in 1.5 hours, almost as fast as the Sherpas, to assist in the rescue. This feels like a “bleed and lead” headline. BTW, both men spent $6K each to helicopter from EBC to KTM for the meeting. Don’t think they would have done that without some form of Sherpa support. Their interest may be called into question as they benefit if the climb continues, but more to the point is their members and Sherpa benefit more. I say all this with full respect to the fallen Sherpa.

      1. Alan, I agree that the Sherpa would not be outraged. Russ has been on top of safety for his team.
        Thanks for the thoughts.

  8. Alan,
    Thanks for your excellent coverage of Everest this year. As always, I looked forward to your posts to see what was going on. I know that an avalanche can happen any time, and it is truly sad that so many Sherpa died in this one. Perhaps some innovative way of getting supplies to the upper camps will be developed as a result. My personal feeling is that anyone who attempts Everest should have some decent experience with mountains at higher altitudes. It has probably progressed to the point in Nepal where anyone with the money, regardless of the ability and experience can try to climb Everest

    Best of luck on K2! I’m looking forward to your coverage. I think many people will be surprised at how different a climb of K2 is from Everest. That’s one mountain you need to be qualified for!

    Although the Nepali government collects the big fees from climbers, I think it is the thousands of trekkers that go through the Khumbu region pump a lot of money into that area specifically and have helped the Sherpa prosper far better than the rest of Nepal. Knowing that many of the Sirdars and head guides on treks are Sherpa, have the treks in the Khumbu continued, or have they been cut off as well?

    Thanks again!

  9. Some of these comments have me baffled. 16 or is it 17? sherpa have lost their lives. Forever. Husbands, sons, fathers, cousins, friends…etc. That is the tragedy.

    Kate – yes, Mark Anger may have written with some sarcasm, though I’m honestly not sure how much without tone of voice, which is absent in e-mail and text. He mentions World Vision, so I thank you for your post as it got me to read his posts (to try and understand yours) and that sent me to the website.
    I read all comments with a grain of salt including yours. Text is tricky!

    I wish the best for Alex, he will learn from this experience, disappointments teach us – so he might be disappointed but he’s still alive. I also expect the money he raised will go to his charity.

    Politics & economics of they country they are visiting are a part of the risk mountaineers take into account and they factor in whether or not they can afford the expedition they are attempting. It’s a gamble.

    If you’ve been to an impoverished country or one with political strife and had to give up a climb or trek for any of these reasons, then you already know this, so forgive me as I don’t know your climbing & travel experience.

    I have to add best of luck to Alan! K2 is a serious undertaking.

    Mary Ellen

    1. Thanks Mary Ellen. Honestly, it is not clear if the total fatality list for 2014 is 16 or 17 as there was one early season death before 16 were listed as killed in the serac release. The only press release from the Ministry listed 12 deaths and 4 missing, now presumed dead. It is not clear of all 4 missing were killed or 3. There was at least one of the missing body recovered.

      Again, tragic beyond words for their families. I personally know many Sherpa from climbers to cooks and have utmost respect for what they do, how they do it and who they are. They inspire me.

  10. Mark Anger, too much sarcasm. It was never a winner, with folk like you around do you wonder the discussions and negotiations don’t make any progress. As for Alex,you can tell he is a young man with burning desires and much to learn but you have not taken time out to find out about his background before you knock him down with your ‘clever’ sarcastic turn of phrase. You don’t need me to tell you that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit and you appear to have plenty of that. If you have ‘nowt ‘ worth saying don’t say it.

    1. I think you need to read a little more carefully.

      I have not said one word about Alex.

    2. Read over all my posts and see how much sarcasm is actually there. Not as much as you believe. “Sardonic” is the word you’re looking for anyway.

      Come on Kate, straighten me out. Tell me what you think about the deaths of the Sherpas and how things could be made better for them.

  11. Guest – if you are18 your life long dream can’t be any longer than 18 year’s and that’s if you can remember the first 3 or 4. You can not dream older than what you are. Unless you believe in reincarnation. But it would seem from your post for Alex to have his life long dream he would have needed to die in that avalanche.

    Ashley – you presume again alex does not work, I can say you have no idea. Have you looked at his web page. An 18 year old who has raised other 40k, coped with epilepsy, a stammer and bullying which mirrors what you are doing. He has raised more than 8k for charity. Nobody is staying the sherpas did not deserve more but the sherpas wanted to climb everest and was threatened with attacking there families and villages. If I threatened a colleague and there family I would get a arrested, it does not matter what country it is wrong. Simple

  12. So how are climbers and western guides ever going to feel safe again on the mountain with Sherpa on Sherpa threats of violence and threats towards climbers and western guides. One report had climbers hunkered down in their tents with ice axes for fear of Sherpa lead reprisal, how will that change next year? I think everyone feels that the Sherpas are underpaid for their work and deserve a more equitable piece of the pie but the threats were real and disconcerting and moving forward I think will be difficult for everyone next year. I know if I were thinking of investing $40K – $100k for an everest expedition next year or beyond I would have to think long and hard about the risk beyond the risk on the mountain itself.

    1. This is just the beginning. The Sherpas have woken from their slumber.

      The government pockets millions while they struggle to pay for funerals.

      By the way, the deaths were also real and disconcerting.

      Expect more “politics” next year and beyond.

      1. I didn’t mean to discount the very real deaths of the Sherpas those are tragic.

  13. Mango 7
    April 26, 2014
    That sounds a little ridiculous, making – forcing – people to climb crap just to join some “club”, or “short list” of eligible climbers. Elitist.

    If you consider climbing mountains other than Everest to be “crap” than I’m certainly not going to waste my time in justifying my position to someone with such a view on mountaineering.

  14. Alan, why do you think some writers are ignoring the fallout from this tragedy concerning the “threats” from a group of Sherpa (outsiders) to the teams and climbers?

    A good discussion (article) on the tragedy, (in my opinion) should include this.

    Many are now commenting (that teams have left), about the Maoist link to the several agitators. This Tragedy deserved the focus on safety, compensation, insurance and monetary help for the families of those Sherpa that died or were injured. It’s sad that some outside influences have taken the focus off the Sherpa whom perished/injured and compounded the tragedy by threats.

    1. Elle, because that is not good for business. If such threats (especially against climbers) are discussed widely it will result in radically reduced number of climbers who want to deal with and if you are part of the everest climbing economic chain (anywhere from tour operator, guide, sherpa, journalist, even enthusiast) you don’t want that to happen.

      1. Makes sense. I am not a climber, but, if I were looking to climb, I sure as heck would want to know if there was an undercurrent of threats that was being covered up. I would have a right to know if the risks (other than the climbing risks of death/illness) entailed violence even if in a small percentage of the Sherpa community. This aspect of behavior (bad behavior) needs to be discussed (all aspects of the safety of Sherpas and climbers /members). To ignore or gloss over is troubling and dangerous.

  15. A lot of good points are raised here (and plenty of bad ones too), but I feel one perspective is missing so far on this site: how can we effectively challenge the political and economic marginalization (on a national and global scale) which forces a community to take up one of the most dangerous jobs in the world to eke out a meagre living? How many Sherpas would continue fixing ropes and carrying gear up Everest or similarly dangerous routes if they had a viable livelihood alternative? How has the commercialization of mountain climbing fostered the marginalization of the Sherpa community (even though it has no doubt provided them unparallelled economic resources)? And what is the role of the national government in perpetuating Sherpa marginalization?

    An interesting article that sheds some lights on the underlying issues was written last year by G. Schaffer: http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/climbing/mountaineering/Disposable-Man-History-of-the-Sherpa-on-Everest.html with a follow-up commentary after this year’s tragedy: http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/climbing/mountaineering/The-Value-of-A-Sherpa-Life.html

    I feel with foreign mountaineers who have spent their (or their network’s) lifetime savings to climb this mountain and could not complete their (noble or self-interested) mission. But coming to climb mountains in places like Nepal, we should be more appreciative of what some in this forum are labelling off as ‘civil strife and politics’, and start looking at the underlying drivers and social-economic inequalies.

    1. Well said.

      A handful of Sherpa literally risk their lives doing highly dangerous work for good wages (but still, a relative pittance) but some think this is an excellent situation for them.

      How about a situation where more Sherpas and more Nepalis have a livelihood where they don’t have to risk their lives daily for 6 weeks?

  16. If Alex didn’t have money to spend on a climb at 18 maybe he should get a job. “There would be no Sherpas” without the climbers? The Sherpas are indigenous to the Khumbu Valley and their existence isn’t contingent upon Everest climbers.

    I’m not trying to hate on the kid. I get he’s crushed by disappointment. But 16 people who would’ve made his chance of summiting possible are dead. He has his whole life ahead of him. I’m sure Alex is a wonderful kid, and he will be supported if he attempts Everest again.

    1. Is this meanness really necessary? “Get a job” indeed! Please a little civility…this isn’t 7chan.

      1. Linda- well said.
        Ashley- you don’t have a good grasp on what these athletes/climbers have sacrificed for an attempt to climb Everest. Most all of these climbers and their family members are aware of the known risks and dangers associated with climbing, as are the Sherpas. It is tragic that Sherpas lost their lives while working on the mountain, but they were hopefully doing what they loved. But let’s put this into perspective. In the past month over 150 people lost their life in a ferry accident and over 200+ on a missing Malaysian airplane.
        Some of these climbers were trying to raise awareness of other diseases and causes, such as Alzheimer’s and Pancreatic cancer (+35,000 lives lost per year due to pancreatic cancer). These climbers are not curing cancer, but raising awareness goes a long way to helping find treatment options and support for research.
        Please show your respect for the climbers and Sherpas who all were out their doing what they love to do!
        I feel for the Sherpas and their families, but I am more concerned about their economic future if climbers stop coming to Everest. It will be hard for future groups and climbers to commit the time and money for the uncertainty of climbing Everest over the next 1-3 years or more.
        Great blog coverage Allan! Thank you.
        My brother is currently climbing in the nearby area with Dan Manzur’s group. We wish him a safe trip and good climb!
        Climb on!

        1. It’s an 18 year old kid. His “lifetime” dreams and achievements? Really? I get the idea of a lifelong mountaineer, who has sacrificed, trained, getting their “only shot” at Everest may have been a tragedy. A teen isn’t that guy,

          I’ve been following this blog for a few years… But this is getting a bit beyond the pale

    2. Well said Ashley- 16 people are dead and the speed at which some people writing the blogs on the right are moving on to their next summit is quite frankly, disgusting.

      1. “…. writing the blogs on the right…”

        Sarah, what do you mean about this quote?

        1. The climber blogs listed on the right of this page – some of the latest pots following the tragedy (even before the abandonment of the climb) I found shocking as to the speed at which they wanted ‘business as usual’ after a few days mourning for the Sherpas. I really do appreciate the ‘lost dreams’ and ‘one chance’ , but I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the mountain with some of these folk they have lost sight of what’s important in their drive to succeed.

  17. Without the climbers there will be no sherpas, less tea houses, no porters, there children will not get a better education, there is a pattern in this and a much wider picture!! And why do you presume Ashley these climbers where lucky enough to have that much money in the bank, I know Alex and others didnt.

    1. Debbie, I can see you’re genuinely concerned about the well-being of the Sherpa people.

      In which case, I presume you donate to World Vision, or the Red Cross, or are involved in microloans; or you volunteer your time to some organisation for their betterment.

  18. The charities will suffer?!? I frankly have a hard time feeling sorry for anyone who can drop $80K to climb a mountain. Maybe next time stay home and give the money directly to those charities instead? Those truly committed to raising awareness for worldwide causes will respect the chance this tragedy gave the people of Everest to address their government and working conditions. I have nothing but respect for all the climbers but Everest belongs to the Sherpa people, and climbing it is a privilege, not a right.

    1. Sorry, Ashley, I just walked out of EBC today, and I have the feeling you don’t seem to get it: Some individuals use the DEAD for pushing their personal agendas, or political ones. That’s what it’s all about. Not very Buddhist, hey!
      My expedition leader confirmed he had been pressured and his Sherpas – mostly Tibetans – had been told NOT to want to climb. Read Tim Mosedale’s latest posts; maybe you’ll understand.

  19. Ashley the pulling out was not because of the Avalanche but because of politics and threats. I know Alex has a lot of respect for the sherpas. But lets not forget that Alex and most of the climbers where doing this not just for there dreams but for worthy charities which will now suffer as well.

    1. I have a hard time with the line..”but I am doing it for charity and if I did not go and do xyz the charities will suffer.” Let’s be honest, Alex and the other climbers are doing it first and foremost because it is their dream and ambition to do so. They are there because they want to be and raising money for a charity comes very squarely in second place to that.

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all just do not try and justify that the climb should have gone ahead because a charity will suffer because a climber through no fault of his or her own did not summit If I had sponsored someone to climb Everest I would still pay over what I had pledged and I believe most people given the circumstances would.

      What seems to be lacking in a lot of posts is compassion. Too many posts where condolences on the deaths were followed with the word BUT…. very sad, but what about me!

  20. let’s not forget a long history of labor issues (100 years) on Everest. 2014 is just a continuation of the most recent flashpoint that began last year with Jon Griffith, Simone Moro and Ueli Steck. The entire 2014 story is incomplete without an understanding of last years events and also the history of labor issues on Everest. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/02/violence-on-everest.html
    This is one of the few places where the perspective of “maoist, non-local sherpas” is even being mentioned. Kudos for that.
    Real climbing = no oxygen, no sherpas, no fixed ropes, no bs. The $75,000 tourist version with sherpas doing all the heavy lifting is not real climbing anyways.
    Chomolungma is probably happy to see the paid tourists on the Nepal side go home.

  21. I have posted this to Support4Sherpas – in 4 days we have raised an incrediable amount,. Alan thank you for your posts and for your support.

  22. I think we don’t have to put the blame on sherpa’s or government.it will be better climbers to rely on their own power(ropes,skills,etc)in future.the Everest is still open…everyone who have the skills can climb…

  23. If any change does occur I think a proportion of risk should shift back to western climbers – less gas, less luxury in high camps and climbers taking some of their kit. This seems to more fair and more ethically sound way in which to climb the hill. Alans post about how his Sherpa cared hit the nail on the head and that should go both ways in my humble opinion. Time will tell I suppose…. either way violence and politics creeping in now is bloody abhorrent. what a mess. Let’s hope sense prevails.

    1. Ah the western climber pile on. What about the scores of “eastern” climbers such as Indian, Chineses, etc who climb the mountain every year?

  24. To me what is happening after the avalanche is really in line with what happened last year to the Ueli Steck expedition. Taking hostage the mountain by a minority of the sherpa’s community : The youngest, the more informed and most aware of what is going on in the western countries and they know there is a lot of profit to be made.

    As read in one of the post on this blog that will be ending up as they wish : sherpa’s led expeditions without any foreign team anymore. Thinking that I can’t stop thinking about what Reinhold Messner writing on the importance of accountability in this environment. To me relying more and more on the Sherpa takes the accountability away from the person that are attempting the summit. Everything is decided by expedition leads, and carried by the Sherpa at the top.

    I raised on Twitter that this event should be change and an opportunity to re-think the way to take everest, in Alpine style with a solid experience, solid awareness and solely rely on your skills, and solidarity of the your rope’s partner (your action, your decision, your risk).

    This important rely on the sherpa and expedition leader took away this accountability from what I read and see and in my own opinion as well.

    I truly understand the historical importance of the sherpa there and what climbers are bringing there in term of money and all but maybe it is time to move on as the young sherpas are doing, being more into politics, to make things change for their community with what they have. The nepalese government might have some responsibilities here as well to have left that situation that bad…

    By moving on, I mean rethink the way to climb on it. Mountain is one of last bit of freedom here (with Sailing). Imagine the Zermatt Guide prohibit you to summit the Matterhorn if you don’t use on of their guide, same for the Mont Blanc, les Grandes Jorasses or the North Face of the Eiger ? Nobody will accept that.

    That’s it. Forgive my english please

    This blog is really great. Lot of content and amazing quality from all contributors.

    N. from Switzerland

  25. I was reluctant to push it last year to protect those who may have been over reacting through frustration with atypical violence. Now seems these unionised punks have form and are back again. Time to name them.

    Secondly, the government said last year their staff would be stationed in EBC this year to ensure peace. Kinda telling and a total fail on their part then. Were any permit fee increases said to be for part this reason?

    Keen for answers on both points if any one could help out??

    1. Our LO, Suber, a very nice guy, was one of the few LOs at BC.
      It’s a scandal what the “unionised punks”, as you call them, are doing.

    2. How dare those “unionised punks” try to get a better deal than the paltry one they’ve had to date.

      Don’t they understand some westerners have bucket lists to check off?

      The Sherpas do all the heavy lifting, face most of the danger, and get a relative pittance.

      If the Sherpas went back on the mountain this year, that’s a sign to the Nepalese government that they can be pushed around even after the worst disaster in the mountain’s history. And next year business as usual.

      Whether they are “unionised” or “punks” or some other epithet, they have to make a stand. They have to, otherwise the deaths are totally in vain. Which would heap tragedy upon tragedy.

      1. Sherpa’s make somewhere between 7 to 10 times the annual per-capita income of Nepal in 3 months. I see you are not familiar with the concept of PPP if you think that is a paltry deal, nor do you understand how making things more expensive will hurt the Sherpas as a whole while creating a small special interest group of them who make more money (the loud/young/maoists).

        Also enough of this garbage about “western climbers”. There are climbers from all over the world on the mountain who depend on the Sherpa services for their climb.

        1. $5000 wages compared to the loss of a life is a pittance.

          $10000 payout if they die is a pittance.

          Who said anything about making things more expensive?

          If you really care about the economic plight of the Sherpas, or Nepalis in general, get involved in a charity, World Vision, microloans, or something with lasting benefit … rather than dumping an annual truckload of cash on a handful.

          1. My point being that the small number of threatening folks are frequently referred to as Sherpas which can and has incorrectly and unfairly been seen to refer to all sherpas, or all Sherpas which is not the case. Rally for a fair deal but not on the pretext of the recent tragedy. And while you are an employee you will never get an owners potential income. Considering the potential business case risk and the unseen outgoings that operators have that’s just how it is, and part of that case is localised cost structures. Should they pay some international folks wages commiserate with where they came from that’s up to them. Don’t like it, don’t take the job, then learn to bargain sensibly. Oh, and Mike, while you are busy selling everything to donate to their cause I’ll place my money where ever and how ever I like. Cheers, C.

  26. Wish some of the climbers would put their disappointment in perspective. Understand the financial, physical and mental commitment required for a summit attempt, but all these climbers will head home to their families and eventually be able to try again. The 16 lost lives are the real tragedy here, not the lost investments and deferred dreams of Western climbers. Perspective is everything. The 18 year-old has a lifetime of climbs ahead of him and should be thankful for that gift. When he hugs his family after arriving home will be realize there are families in the Khumbu who will never see their husbands and fathers again? Perspective and respect.

    1. With respect Ashley,any loss of life is regrettable,but please bear in mind, the “western” climber would follow the same path after the Sherpa have laid the lines to the summit, and encounter the same dangers re avalanches and adverse weather, and death. And yes Alex and all other climbers will be back home to their families, but have you tried saving anything between $50,000 to $85,000 depending on which expedition you choose, only for that money to be lost even before you had a chance to try? Majority of these “western” climbers are ordinary folk, who have given up on holidays, and other luxuries for years to save that kind of money, not to mention having to consistently ask family & friends for patience and support. You think it’s going to be easy for these people to just go through all that again? Yes there was loss of life, and the climbing stopped for a few days out of respect for the dead, but this(intimidation & bullying) am afraid is beyond reason. And tbh they might find they have bitten the hand that feeds

      1. “With respect” ?

        “With respect”, you’re saying that money trumps a Sherpa’s life. “Oh sure people died but what about the money?”

        Money can be earned again. The Sherpas’ lives aren’t coming back, any time ever.

        Wake up to yourself.

      2. “but please bear in mind, the “western” climber would follow the same path after the Sherpa have laid the lines to the summit, and encounter the same dangers re avalanches and adverse weather, and death.” (qote)

        Ding ding ding…we have a winner for most ignorant statement.
        Let all climbers carry their gear, food, oxygen and set up their own high camps instead of following the “the yellow brick road to the top” then come back here and compare risks. How many foreign climbers carrying supplies died in the avalanche?…yup that’s what I thought.

  27. Sad when 16 Sherpas paid with their lives……sadder when politics try to come in between to make the best of the situation 🙁

  28. Hmmm. Not that this new information is necessarily relevant but I can’t help but think back on tensions that arose in the 2013 season and wonder how many of these characters were on the mountain last April.

    In any case, I feel badly for the terrible heartache and disappointment felt by those who weren’t exploiting an angle up there.

    1. Well I feel very badly for the terrible heartache and disappointment of the children and wives and brothers and sisters and parents of the Sherpas who died, and who will NEVER see their loved one again. And also for the dead Sherpas who will never see any other mountain again.

  29. Alan, any back story on the Ministry beefing up presence this year at EBC ? I get there was a fight last year, but I wonder now after reading the excerpts above, if there was something else going on that foreshadowed these troubles that have distracted all of us from the true tragedy.

  30. I support the Sherpa.

    Westerners might find their tactics appalling, but they would do well to remember their history. All of the labor laws that protect us today were literally fought for with strikes, threats, and violence. As distasteful as we may find it now, it’s effective. Petitions, patience, and non-violence haven’t persuaded the Nepalese government to better protect and serve the Sherpa community, so why *shouldn’t* they use stronger tactics? Why shouldn’t they use the same tactics our ancestors did while fighting for better working conditions and government protections?

    It’s unfortunate that climbers are caught in the middle of a Sherpa revolution, but it needs to happen. With Everest in their backyard and their genetic quirks that make them essential for high-altitude labor, they deserve more compensation, respect, and government representation than they currently receive. The posts I’ve seen elsewhere (NOT from Alan) complaining about the Sherpa strike are uncomfortably close in my mind to complaints about minorities being “uppity.” Why should we look down on the Sherpas for demanding equality?

    I’ll step off my soapbox now. The disdain I’ve seen over the last few days for Sherpas who only want equality has been upsetting and disappointing.

    Thank you Alan for your superb Everest coverage and good luck on K2.

  31. Alan, Thanks for your efforts on Everest and vs Alzheimers.

    I was rafting on the Kahli Ghandaki in 1998 when I witnessed the first Maoist violence from the lowland sherpa community. In short, a mob of sherpa arrived at our take out point and said they would kill our Western guides if they saw them on the river again. They wanted to control foreign use of their country resources / tourism.

    While the current demands from the Khumbu based sherpa (and their out of town sherpa “friends”) focus on the Nepail govt, it is a very short line to connect their anger to the Western guiding community as well. I suspect that the same thing I witnessed in 1998 is coming to Everest – use Nepali guides or don’t climb. In this effort the Maoists and the govt may both be satisfied.

    I have climber all over the world and dislike the “pay to play” Western climbers as much as anyone, but limiting their participation misses the point that any money coming into the country will likely be routed to the Nepali guides in the very near future (depending on your perspective this may be a good thing?)

    Joe Kelly

  32. The militant behavior of some of the Sherpa is appalling. The Nepalese Government must take action to protect climbers from the threats of harm to them and those Sherpa willing to continue to climb this year. Unless strong action is taken, this form of militancy shall continue to get progressively worse in years to come.

    1. Unless you are Nepalese you have no right to state “the government must”. It is their country and anything can happen. A few years ago their were Maoists who extorted money from climbers and trekkers. Nepal has not had a stable “government” in over eight years. One goes to that part of the world and hopes that nothing happens. I trekked to base camp two years ago and had the adventure of a life time. I have also been interogated by the Russian KGB and caught in riots in Mexico. There are no guarantees in life. Move forward and hope for the best. The Sherpas are a kind but very, very poor people.

  33. Thank you so much for keeping all of us informed on what’s happening on Everest. It’s just so sad…..from every aspect.

  34. Alan, to point out the obvious this is an Everest problem and not a mountaineering problem as I’m sure you only know too well. When the system allows the riches to be so focused on the one target, problems are bound to arise. Surely then the solution is to take Everest away from the inexperienced climber?

    I don’t know how it could be implemented or governed but a regulation must exist in the shape of prerequisite climbs before Everest is tackled. I mean this after all is what any purist, rational mountaineer should do anyway right? I think one must first climb a 6,000m then7,000m and then 8,000m mountain first before being eligible for an Everest permit. This would solve quite a few climbing related problems I believe and could actually increase the spoils for Nepal over a greater area. Fanciful thinking maybe but I think a step in a similar direction must be taken.

    Very exciting news by the way regarding your K2 plans!


    1. Jeez, that sounds a little daunting. Climb a dull uninteresting 6000m hill?

      Why can’t they just helicopter people up the mountain?

      Out of bed just after 9AM, do your puja showing your deep respect for Sagarmatha, then hop in a chopper from EBC up to above the Hillary Step, short trudge up to CONQUER the mountain, then back down for lunch and hot drinks all prepared by the Sherpas, high fives and a disco that night.

    2. That sounds a little ridiculous, making – forcing – people to climb crap just to join some “club”, or “short list” of eligible climbers. Elitist.

      1. No, Mango7 not crap but sensible. There are many beautiful mountains in the world that have been both a pleasure and a privilege for me to climb. I have wonderful memories of even “lowly” 4,000 metres. With each mountain climbed I have learned something new and been able to use my new found skills to help me climb the next mountain. To me it has always been more about the journey and less about the summit. I love every minute taken in learning the skills and techniques required to enable me to become a profficient climber. There is no better feeling than climbing a frozen waterfall. The summits to me are the bonus.

        Climbing a mountain like Everest should be a progression. People should only climb it ONLY when they are ready and they have demonstrated that they have the skills and experience to do so – not because they have the money and want to brag about it to their friends!

      2. Calling 6, 7 and 8000m mountains ‘crap’ is a metaphor for everything which is wrong with much of the culture surrounding Everest these recent years, I think. I bet lots of recent Everest summiteers haven’t even climbed many Munros here in Scotland – and they are BEAUTIFUL and often very challenging and often empty of people…. It’s partly about letting go of your ego and not thinking of ‘conquering’….. That’s real mountaineering.

  35. Once again let me send my prayers and condolences to the families of the Sherpa who tragically lost their lives. May the Sherpa who sadly died R.I.P. But this is also a very sad day for Everest south side. I am truly gutted for all the climbers who had scrimped and saved and trained their guts for a once in a lifetime shot at this majestic hill, and even more gutted for Alex Staniforth who would have been the youngest Brit at 18 to summit. I also have to do some soul searching re my climb in 2017, will need to have a long chat with Tim Mosedale when he gets back

  36. Alan, thank you once again for the great info. I really love to read your blog and I am going to support your mission for this all when I can afford to do so, that of course being the Alzheimer’s. Actually lost my grand father to it as well. But question for you as well I was wondering would you happen to have the name / homepage / blog for that Russian team still there?

  37. Can equipment at Camps 1 & 2 really be “secured” until next year? Seems like it would not survive very well exposed like that.

  38. What a sad season I suspect Everest has changed for ever.I feel the Nepalese Government really has got to take a fair bit of the blame (for what happened after the collapse) and many of the problems have been brewing for a long time.For years they have made plenty of money out of Everest while giving very little back.What little support they did promise was often missing like liaison officers not even staying with teams at base camp and the promise of more personnel at base camp this year again not materialising. And worst of all totally inadequate compensation packages for Sherpa and their family the very people without whom nobody would climb when they are injured or killed on the mountain.It seems they were happy just to sit back and collect the fees rather than take their responsibility’s seriously.

  39. Thanks for the post. This is exactly what my sister who is on Everest was saying. They were forced to abandon their climb today because of threats by the younger Sherpa not because if the safety of the mountain. All politics and no honour of the dead at all. Very very sad. Broken dreams and very sad the climbers are being punished.

  40. Exploresweb posted a some facts about Everest and any danger. After reading it I haved decided it is safer to climb Mt. Everest than driving to work, especially if you work in Southern California and drive any of the So. Cal freeways..

    1. Oh yeah… But it is not very clear which factions are responsible fot the mess. On my way to Namche, yesterday, I spoke to a well-known guide whose liaison officer at BC had been… the son of Pranchandra. Apparently, the guy did not agree with the scandalous behavior of the “mob”.
      Sadly for me, I know very well one of the culprits, very eager to push his own agenda; I have been working on a documentary film on his family for 6 years. I cancelled the project yesterday.
      I can only repeat what I have already written and said – also in BC, which got me to hear: “Shut up, Damien, people are talking about you in KTM”.
      To speak out is NOT welcome here, even with operators and guides who agree with me. I guess they fear for their future business.
      We, the members, have had no voice. Thi is not democracy and to call the offer of the government a compromise – permit valid for 5 years – is a joke at best – another scandal, I would say.
      I am known to speak out, and Alan can testify. But I feel like pissing in the wind since NO other member has, as far as I know, really shouted out his anger, frustation, etc.
      Lats but not least: At least 2 living legends, famous guides, a climber with almost ALL 14 8.000ers without O, share my opinion.
      This shows me that despite the fact that my opinion is not welcome, even with operators, my angle is probably correct.
      I’ve been coming to Nepal for 10 years now; 10 expeditions, 12 treks, many friendships – one of my best friends is now Nepalese -, many projects. The TERRORIST stand of a few will have huge consequences on me and Nepal… Well, I guess some will be happy NOT to see me here for a while…

  41. Alan, it looks like its going to be another season talked about for the wrong reasons, the true tragedy is the lost of lives but I fear there will be more to come with the fallout over the “economic” situation that is about to unfold, I suspect protests may begin and if the government get heavy handed using the military there going to be trouble. I fear teams will also still make attempts and this would be foolish without the support network normally in place, Everest is a team effort from start to finish

    1. Look forward to more fallout, protests and heavy handedness in coming years.

      The Sherpas have woken up. This isn’t going away.

    2. “To be alive means to be in danger”, wrote the Great Frederic (Nietzsche)
      Everyone on Everest is there by choice. Climbing big mountains is dangerous, for everyone. But nobody has a gun pointed at his head.
      It is a drama, yes. In every aspect.

  42. Scott, thanks for this link. Not everyone agrees the Icefall is more dangerous this year than in the past. Overall, that was not the primary and only reason for the season ending.

    1. Alan, I am reading conflicting reports on some of the commercial guiding blogs as to whether the Icefall is really more dangerous this year or not. Certainly Peak Freaks have stated that it is more dangerous whereas Tim Mosedale is saying strongly that it is in as good a condition as it has ever been.

      The 18 year old boy Alex in his blog went as far as to say that other expedition leaders were lying and using it as an excuse for their departure and it was as safe as ever. Perhaps his words come from bitter disappointment and immaturiry and, given the very sad deaths of the Sherpas, safe it is obviously not.

      Be intested on yours view of this.

      1. James. We were told at Base Camp, it was a colder year, the route was comparatively off the West shoulder, and while no one claims “safe”, the consensus was just “better” than the last couple years. In 2012, when I was on the Himex expedition team, I was told to “run” (move as fast as I could) through this part of the Ice Fall to minimize exposure. I was told no guide or Sherpa would wait for me (or any of us). We were given avalanche beacons, “not because we think that we can rescue you in the case of a collapse, only to make body recovery faster.” (Translation: You are dead, but we want to shorten recovery time, less exposure for us). The day before the avalanche in 2014 I was photo’ing with high powered lens the bottleneck in the avalanche area (I was climbing with AAI). Too many people (Sherpa mainly, I assume) were gathered, all the time, in one of the most dangerous and exposed areas of the Ice Fall. I can show you pictures where it appears people are sitting down! I now know this was in part due to how the route and ladders were set up. But watching, and photographing, a couple of days before, the day before, and then day of, I failed to see the urgency in probably the most dangerous and exposed area of Everest.

    2. The icefall has not moved abit for 9 days after the serac collapse. There has been, yes, the usual little things coming down left and right. People forget this is the highest place on earth, it seems…

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