Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Sherpas consider Everest boycott after disaster

by BINAJ GURUBACHARYA Associated Press on April 21, 2014 10:14 AM

KATMANDU, Nepal — Buddhist monks cremated the remains of Sherpa guides who were buried in the deadliest avalanche to hit Mount Everest, a disaster that has prompted calls for a climbing boycott by Nepal’s ethnic Sherpa community.

A Sherpa boycott could critically disrupt the Everest climbing season, which is key to the livelihood of thousands of Nepali guides and porters. Everest climbers have long relied on Sherpas for everything from hauling gear to cooking food to high-altitude guiding.

The Discovery Network is canceling a daredevil’s planned jump off the summit of Mount Everest in a wing suit next month following the disaster.

Network spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg said Sunday that the network’s thoughts and prayers go out to the Sherpa community of guides who were the victims of the avalanche.

Jumper Joby Ogwyn already was at Everest in advance of the jump, which was scheduled to be televised live on May 11 worldwide. He was not injured in the avalanche.

Discovery had hoped for big ratings with the stunt, and had scheduled several hours of coverage in anticipation.

At least 13 Sherpas were killed when a block of ice tore loose from the mountain and triggered a cascade that ripped through teams of guides hauling gear. Three Sherpas missing in Friday’s avalanche are presumed dead.

“Right now, I can’t even think of going back to the mountain,” said Tashi Dorje, whose cousin was killed. “We have not just lost our family members, but it is a loss for the whole mountaineering community and the country.”

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Nepal’s capital, Katmandu, today as the bodies of six of the victims were driven in open trucks decorated with Buddhist flags.

During the cremation ceremony, dozens of nuns chanted for the victims’ souls to be released as the bodies were covered in pine branches. A daughter of one of the climbers fainted and was taken to the hospital.

While the work on Everest is dangerous, it has also become the most sought-after work for many Sherpas. A top high-altitude guide can earn $6,000 in a three-month climbing season, nearly 10 times Nepal’s $700 average annual salary.

The avalanche came just as climbing was to begin in earnest, with mountaineers set to begin moving above base camp and slowly acclimatizing to the altitude on the world’s highest mountain. Most attempts to reach the 29,035-foot summit occur in mid-May, when weather is at its most favorable.

Since the avalanche, the Sherpas have expressed anger that there has not been a bigger response from Nepal’s government, which profits from the permit fees charged to the climbing expeditions.

Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association said Sherpa guides are considering a climbing boycott to press their demands. Without the guides, it would be nearly impossible for expedition teams to continue.

Tshering said there were about 400 foreign climbers from 39 expedition teams on the mountain and an equal number of Sherpa guides, along with many more support staff such as cooks, cleaners and porters in the base camp.

The Tourism Ministry, which handles the mountaineering affairs, said it has not been told of any cancellations by expedition teams. Some Sherpas had already left the mountain by today, either joining the boycott or mourning their friends and colleagues.

The government has announced an emergency aid of $415 for the families of the deceased climbers, but the Sherpas are demanding better treatment.

The “Sherpa guides are heating up, emotions are running wild and demands are being made to the government to share the wealth with the Sherpa people,” said a blog post by Tim and Becky Rippel. Tim Rippel, an experienced Himalayan guide and owner of the Canada-based guiding company Peak Freaks, was at base camp when the avalanche happened.

The post said many Sherpas were frustrated by their tiny share of the millions of dollars that flow into Nepal as a result of the climbing industry.

“Things are getting very complicated and there is a lot of tension here and it’s growing,” the Rippels wrote, adding of the Sherpas: “They are our family, our brothers and sisters and the muscle on Everest. We follow their lead, we are guests here.”

The Sherpas want the minimum insurance payment for those killed on Everest to be doubled to $20,800, and a portion of the climbing fee charged by the government to be reserved for a relief fund. They also want the government to build a monument in the capital in memory of those killed in the avalanche.

Deputy Prime Minister Prakash Man Singh said today the government has been working to help the Sherpas since the rescue began. “We will do what we can, keeping with the standard practice to provide compensation,” he said.

Sherpa Pasang of the Nepal National Mountain Guide Association said they have handed over a list of demands to the government seeking $10,400 for the families of dead, missing and injured Sherpa guides in immediate financial aid. They also want assurance that the government will bring regulations to protect them in the future.

“The government has made no big response even after a big tragedy like this. Until they hear our pleas we will continue to put pressure,” he said, adding they plan to meet top government officials later in the week.

Next Article
Dealer nabbed in art fraud case
April 21, 2014 10:09 AM
Related Articles
Comments
Disclaimer: Copyright © 2014 Indiana Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.