Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Everest News: Commentary On New Regulations And Sherpas Speak Out On Spring Brawl

August isn't typically the time of year that get much news on Everest. After all, the spring climbing season is well behind us and the much quieter fall season hasn't begun yet. But today we have a couple of Everest-centric stories worth noting and considering the rather large shadow the mountain casts over the mountaineering world, they are both worth sharing.

First up, Alan Arnette has weighed in with his thoughts on the new regulations that Nepal will be instituting next year. Those regulations include a permanent government presence in Base Camp, a ban on the use of helicopters in the region and a requirement that all attempts at setting a record on the mountain be declared ahead of time. Alan notes that while it is good to see Nepal making any kind of effort to bring a bit of order to Everest, he has his doubts as to whether or not these rules will actually accomplish anything or will even be enforced at all.

One of the more troubling aspect about the news that more regulations are coming to the world's tallest mountain is that aside from a BBC article on the changes, there has been little other information on the topic. The Nepali government hasn't even issued a press release or sent out any written confirmation of the rules changes. Worse yet, Alan says that none of the new regulations do anything to address the biggest challenge - overcrowding.

I have to say that I agree with Alan's assessment of the situation and had my own reservations about the new rules when they were announced. Nepal isn't all that well known for following through with their government oversight to begin with and adding yet more bureaucracy  probably isn't the answer. The fact that these new rules don't help in controlling the crowds leads me to believe that officials there are simply burying their heads in the sand so as to not disrupt the the cash cow that Everest has become for them. More people on the mountain means more permits sold, which of course leads to more cash in the country's coffers.

Meanwhile, Outside magazine has an interview with a Sherpa who was on Everest this past spring and was a witness to the incidents that led to a brawl between other Sherpas and European climbers Ueli Steck, Simone Moro and Jonathan Griffith. The conflict began up near Camp 3 at 23,000 feet (7010 meters) when the well-known trio attempted to cross the ropes that were being fixed at the time. Reportedly they dislodged a piece of ice that struck a Sherpa working below. This of course angered the other members of the rope-fixing team who had warned the three westerners to stay off the ropes. The lead Sherpa pulled the team off the job and ordered them to go down to Camp 2. When Simone, Ueli and Jonathan arrived back at that point a few hours later, all hell broke loose.

Tashi Sherpa, who works for International Mountain Guides and was the subject of this interview, paints a similar story from what we've heard in the past but with a few key differences. For instance, he claims that the crowd that approached Simone and Ueli in Camp 2 was nowhere near 100 people as many reports have indicated. He also says that Simone in particular was confrontational and abusive with the Sherpas involved. His actions, according to Tashi, directly led to increased tension between the parties involved.

The interview is a good one and comes across as being honest and forthright. The Sherpa, spoke to a reporter in Kathmandu and talked openly about a growing resentment amongst Sherpas towards western climbers. This is a result of them doing most of the work on Everest and getting little credit for the role they play. As the Nepali climbers have gotten more educated and self assured, they are now starting to ask why the stories about their climbs aren't included with news of westerners summiting the mountain. After all, without the Sherpas, very few people would actually be able to climb Everest.

I found the interview to be very interesting and credible. it is good to get the story from the perspective of the Sherpas involved – a story that has mostly gone untold until now. The person in Outside's interview, says that no foreign journalists or bloggers who were there in BC bothered to talk with the Sherpas involved to get their side of the story. Not even the Nepalese government liaisons approached them. This interview gets at least part of their story out to the public.

If you're a fan of all-things Everest, you'll certainly want to read both of these stories.

6 comments:

Alan Arnette said...

Kraig, the Sherpa interviewed for the Outside article is Tashi Sherpa working for IMG as mentioned in the article.

Kraig Becker said...

Ahh... thanks for pointing that out Alan. I missed it when I read the story earlier. I'll update the posting to reflect it.

And thanks for your insights as always.

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