Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Everest 2014: Threats On Western Climbers By Sherpas?

By now, you may be getting a little tired of hearing about the cancellation of the climbing season on Everest, and believe me, I'd rather be writing about the expeditions that are taking place, rather than rehashing the subject. But, this is a story that will shape the way the mountain is climbed in the future, and it continues to play out now, even after most of the teams have left Base Camp and headed for home.

There are some reports coming out of Nepal that western climbers who wished to continue climbing Everest after the cancellation, were threatened with violence by Sherpas. Apparently, they didn't want anyone going up the mountain, with or without them. Following the announcement of the cancellation, there were as many as four teams that wished to continue, but a vocal minority of Sherpas, possibly backed by the Maoists that hold sway in Nepal, aggressively pressured those teams to leave the mountain and go home.

If these reports are true, there is a dark side to the cancellation that hasn't fully come out yet. Most of the reports have focused on the Sherpas putting demands on the Nepali government to pressure them into giving the guides better benefits and providing support for the families of those who were killed in the avalanche on April 18. Those are demands that we can all get behind, and something that the climbers have been in support of all along.

This story has been spun as if the conflict was between the Sherpas and the government, with the western climbers caught in the middle. It seems the Sherpas may have turned their ire on foreign climbers along the way as well, which has not been widely reported just yet.

My feeling is that this incident is the straw that broke the camels back, if you will. I suspect there will be significant changes to the climbing season in Nepal moving forward, with the Sherpas receiving better pay and insurance benefits, amongst other things. There has been word of some new measures that could be taken to make the climb safer as well, but we'll have to wait to see if those rumors materialize.

While I fully intend to focus on the climbers still attempting Everest on the North Side, I will continue to post updates on what is happening in Nepal as well. I have a feeling that will be a bigger story that continues to evolve even after this season is over.


huaracheblog said...

Although admittedly I know very little about Nepal and Everest. Such a tragic event is bound to increase sadness and tension. Despite its commercialization, Everest should not be mistaken as a theme park, or resort that stays open for our tourist convenience. I don't think that "business as usual" applies to a sacred place, with karmic effects. And I think that despite the tragedy, its positive that in a culture where everything is up for sale, that for once something cannot be bought. If the locals decide to close access to Everest I don't think its dark or negative. Mourning and contemplation are as important as business. For all we know they might think that the avalanche that killed 16 Sherpas was a warning from their Gods. We should respect that and not force ourselves onto their mountain? Maybe they feel that fixing climbing lines and transporting equipment for tourists isn't worth dying for and who can blame them. They're in shock and all of a sudden their relatively higher salaries aren't so important and we should be sensitive to that. Personally as a tourist I think I would feel guilty that my choice, my climbing extravagance has cost the lives of so many. It leaves me wondering if our adventure dollars could go into adventures that provide greater benefits and lower risk to the local population?

Kraig Becker said...

I don't think anyone would argue against allowing the Sherpas time to grieve and mourn the loss of their 16 companions. But there were indications that some of them wanted to continue climbing after the week of mourning had passed. In fact, there are some reports that indicate that it was a vocal minority of Sherpas that pressured not only their brethren, but the foreign climbers off he mountain as well.

I admit that this is a complicated situation, but threatening others with violence if they don't do what you want, is no way to progress forward.

Kyle McLaughlin said...

It's a pretty sad situation. RIP to all those affected. Obviously the sherpa do it because it presents a great opportunity to earn a lot of money in a short period of time. On Kilimanjaro, porters are subject to all kinds of abuse and tourists turn a blind eye because they just wanna climb for a cheap price.