Things have gotten very complicated here on Everest BC. The short version is most of the Sherpas are leaving or are thinking about leaving and they are forcing most expeditions to cancel.
Here is the long explanation if you want to know the details:
Without enough Sherpas to carry the gear and fix the ropes above camp two it will be impossible for anyone to summit.
Even if a group of us (the expeditions that are still here) wanted to climb Everest without Sherpa support it would prove impossible or extremely dangerous. We would have to carry tents, oxygen, food and fuel to stock 4 camps which would mean many, many trips over the dangerous icefall. Fixing 10,000 meters of rope would be impossible for just us. Climbing without fixed ropes would make the climb extremely dangerous as well as slow as roped and belayed climbing take a lot longer than ascending fixed ropes. There is simply no way for us to climb Everest without Sherpa support. Every major Everest expedition since the 1920’s has had Sherpa support for this reason.
The situation is complicated because now politics, superstition and mob mentality are starting to come into play in this situation.
Many of the Sherpas feel the mountain gods are angry and the mountain is not safe. The Sherpas from all camps have been having meetings and have been discussing what to do. One particular Sherpa from a company called Jagged Globe has been an instigator from the beginning telling all Sherpas that they should leave their expeditions. This person has been known in the past to cause a lot of trouble in a similar situation in Manaslu after an avalanche occurred where mainly westerners died.
The Sherpas have come up with a petition for the ministry of tourism of Nepal demanding some things, some of which somehow they don’t realize they already have: like doubling their rescue insurance (it was just doubled this year but they don’t seem to be aware of it). Guaranteeing helicopter rescues on the mountain (outfitters already have to have insurance for that for them. Sadly that is the only reason why they were all rescued with helicopters), $1,000,000 Nepali rupees (a little more than $10,000 dollars which even though is a lot for Nepal it seems a very reasonable petition to us) for each family of the deceased Sherpas, The right to cancel any expedition and be paid in full (this seems to me very unreasonable as it would encourage many Sherpas to not finish their job with full pay guaranteed) and one other petition having to do with taking some of the permit money from each climber for a fund for future Sherpa deaths (also very reasonable).
If they don’t get these things granted by the Nepali government they are threatening to all leave the mountain!
Here is where things are getting really messy!
Not all Sherpas want to leave but they are starting to be pressured by the rest, and a lot of it because of this one Sherpa who is always causing trouble.
The Nepali government,on the other hand, is a complete mess and a joke. They are corrupt, they are disorganized and they are completely inefficient! And they don’t care too much about the Buddhist Sherpas (most of the Nepali government as the rest of the country is Hindu) As an example of their inefficiency they told us there would be officers here at base camp enforcing all the new rules and we haven’t seen a single one. We paid, as required by law, thousands of dollars for a liaison officer who is supposed to be here with us and of course he never even showed up! And the examples go on and on and on.
This is a complete mess! If all the Sherpas leave everyone will lose! Including the Sherpas themselves!
We will all have spent 50k dollars and upwards and gotten no chance at all to climb anything. The international outfitters have threaten to sue the government if they don’t refund the climbing permits (if the mountain gets closed) These are the permits that each of us paid to be allowed to climb above base camp. Other than the rescuers (western guides) and Sherpas no one has been able to climb above base camp. Each permit for each one of us is $10,000 dollars and who knows where the corrupt government of Nepal ends up putting that money.
The country of Nepal makes a lot of money of Trekkers and climbers. If no one can climb this year this can seriously hurt their economy in the future.
The outfitters will be hit hard as a lot less people will want to pay 50,000-80,000 dollars to climb Everest after seeing the trend that’s started last year when Sherpas threaten to kill and tried stoning world class climbers Ueli Steck and Simone Moro and now this year when hundreds of climbers (including me) will not get a chance to climb at all even though they paid all that money.
The Sherpas will be hit hard if westerners stop coming or come less as the whole Khumbu valley, all its villages and Sherpas now depend economically on tourism more than anything else. These Everest expeditions provide a lot of work for the Sherpas and porters who bring everything up to base camp. Also for all the tea houses, lodges etc.
The problem is too many people reacting emotionally and completely irrationally too soon after the tragedy. They are making rash decisions without thinking things through and the masses are letting themselves be influenced by religion and superstition (believing the mountain has some sort of ill intention!) and by peer pressure. What’s new?!! History has shown over and over and over again that this is one favorite way for humans to complicate their existence and create so many unnecessary problems and conflicts!
We all respect any Sherpa’s decision to go home if he lost a friend or family on the avalanche or if he simply feels his job is too dangerous. But to try to intimidate other Sherpas that want to stay and be professional and earn their money on this job they have chosen, that seems very wrong to me.
Don’t forget that climbing Sherpas make very good money compared to any other people in the Khumbu region. If they all leave now they will be not only losing money this year but probably losing their jobs in the future.
We have been hearing mobs of Sherpas walking through base camp shouting. It’s like a lynching mob out there!
Our Sherpas have been very loyal to us as they appreciate their job because Phill pays them very well and has always treated them as family, and of course we respect them and treat them very well too, but they are feeling pressured to leave by other Sherpas. Dorje, the sirdar or top Sherpa has told them all to stay for a week for things to settle down before anyone thinks of leaving.
We are in limbo right now. We are waiting to see what the government says about their requests. We are also waiting to see how many more Sherpas and other expeditions leave in the mean time. And we are waiting for our Sherpas’ decision.
The famous NBC wingman that was going to do that stunt of trying to jump from the summit is now cancelled from what I heard. That is probably a good thing as many Sherpas would probably think it would be disrespectful for the mountain and we don’t need any more complications!
Many outfitters are being forced to cancel now as they have either lost too many Sherpas in the accident or are losing Sherpas that are leaving.
Many climbers have left too.
I have heard the argument that it would be disrespectful to the dead to climb after that tragedy. I suspect some people may be using that as an excuse to leave since they are intimidated by the mountain. Perhaps others are 100% sincere.
I, personally, believe the opposite is true. If nobody climbs then their deaths were all in vain. All their hard work was for nothing! We can honor them and their hard work by climbing the mountain. The Sherpas and us climbers accept a certain level of danger when we do what we do. They accept more danger than we do and that is why they get paid while we pay money. It’s the same when I guide. I accept a much higher level of risk than my clients (leading the technical sections, fixing ropes, working much harder than my clients when needed) but that’s because they are paying me. It’s a job we choose.
Of course it’s very tragic what happened and we are all very, very sad ( and I really do mean this) but to me the chaos that is happening now is getting way out of control because of irrational thinking and that tragedy could end up hurting many more people financially, politically and emotionally and that does not honor the dead in any way not help the families of the dead at all, on the contrary it could hurt them in the long run.
If our Sherpas want to continue to work we want a chance to climb Everest and Lhotse but it will require more than just our Sherpas to be able to pull this off. There has to be at least a few more teams to share the work load of fixing ropes to make this a go for everyone.
As the expedition leaders talk between them and with the Sherpas and as we wait to hear from the ministry of tourism we wait anxiously to see what happens.
This could be the end of my one and only chance I will ever have to climb Mt. Everest or maybe we will get a chance to try it once all this settles.
I don’t know at this point. We have to wait here at base camp to see what happens.
I will keep you posted!