Friday, April 25, 2014

Everest 2014: Confusion And Disarray Remains On The South Side

Yesterday, it was reported that the climbing season on Everest was officially shut down following a meeting with the Sherpas and officials from the Nepali government. Several teams had already announced that they were leaving, and as the days passed this week, more and more climbers elected to go home. But despite reports of a closure, Nepal has said that the mountain does indeed remain open, and that they were working with Sherpas to provide support for those who wished to climb. Of course, as has been typical with this story, there are many facets to what we are being told, and Nepal's attempt to save face with the mountaineering world.

It should be noted, that despite the fact that the mountain remains "open," the two remaining large teams – Himex and Altitude Junkies – announced that they were ending their expeditions yesterday. That means that even if any of the smaller teams decided to stay, there would be little support with helping to fix ropes to the summit.

But the other challenge is getting through the Khumbu Icefall, which is quite possibly the trickiest section of the mountain on the South Col route. Without the Ice Doctors in place to help maintain the route, it is incredibly difficult to pass through. It is unclear at this time if the Ice Docs would even want to stay, following the departure of all of the other team. Some reports indicate that there have even been threats against the Doctors, and their families, should they choose to stay. Nepali officials say they are negotiating with some of the Sherpas to try to get them to stay, but whether or not they do, remains to be seen. If they do stay, who exactly are the supporting on the mountain? The major teams are now all gone, or leaving soon.

All of this come in the wake of the avalanche that killed 16 Sherpas last Friday, which led to the remaining Sherpa contingent asking for a seven day moratorium on climbing out of respect to those that had lost their lives. In the days that followed, tension and anger grew in Base Camp, leading to some of the local guides departing, while western climbers waited to see what would happen. Over the past few days, a massive drama has played out on mountaineering's grandest stage.

The repercussions from this season are likely to be felt for years to come. The Sherpas are tired of doing the bulk of the work on Everest, and taking the brunt of the causalities, while not being compensated fairly for their work. It is likely that their share of the pot will increase by next year, but will Nepal raise the price of climbing permits to account for the changes?

While Everest may remain officially open, it is going to be a very quiet place the rest of the season. Unless some of the top mountaineers in the world decide to go scale the mountain while it is empty, there will likely be no summits from the South Side this year. In fact, it is highly likely that there won't be a single team in Base Camp following this weekend.

It is a lost season on the world's tallest mountain. At least not the South Side. There will still be plenty of summits from the North, and starting next week, we'll get back to following their progress.

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