KATHMANDU: Worst ever mountaineering disaster on Mt Everest has put a question mark over this season’s climbing after the mourning Sherpas from the Khumbu region today vowed to halt all climbing activities, calling off the ongoing search for their missing coworkers.
A joint meeting of guides and support staff, expedition leaders and climbers held at the base camp has threatened to call off this season’s climbing, issuing a seven-day ultimatum to the government to address their demands.
Mountaineering support staff have been raising their concerns about the issues of social security after 13 guides were killed and three went missing in an avalanche that hit the slope of Mt Everest at 5,900m near Camp I in Khumbu Icefall on Friday morning.
Lamakaji Sherpa, General Secretary of the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, told this daily from Namche Bazaar that nearly 300 guides and support staff, expedition leaders and climbers met at the base camp to discuss the future course of action. “Most of them vowed to call off this season’s climbing activities if their demands were not addressed by the government.”
The meeting also decided to mark April 18 as ‘Black Day’ in the Everest history, Sherpa said. He added that SPCC’s icefall doctors had stopped fixing the ladders and ropes at the avalanche site. Most of the support staff have decided to return to their homes in Khumbu region for a break.
Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Tourism And Civil Aviation Madhusudhan Burlakoti said his office was taking stock of the latest development. The ministry will hold talks with the stakeholders, he said. According to him, search was halted today after most of the rescuers were attending meetings in Khumbu region.
According to the Nepal Mountaineering Association, more than 80 per cent of the mountaineering support staff and the high altitude workers are from Khumbu region. Ten of Friday’s disaster victims were from Khumbu. Authorities should consider their demands seriously, as Sherpas are the backbone of mountaineering activities, NMA President Ang Tshering Sherpa said.
Meanwhile, the ministry has invited all the expedition operators for an emergency meeting tomorrow morning, following the warning issued by the mountaineering support staff. “We will discuss all issues, including the concerns of Sherpas, with the government officials tomorrow and will try to find an amicable solution,” Jiban Ghimire, Managing Director of Shangri-La Nepal Treks, said.
Figures to ponder
• A total of 334 mountaineers from 41 countries representing 31 teams with over 400 support staff are headed for Mt Everest this season. Government has collected Rs 300 million as royalty
• Though death rate at Mt Everest is only six per cent, as of 2013 there were 248 casualties (76 due to avalanches). These included 161 foreigners
• Eighty-six Sherpas died between 1922 and 2013 — 27 from avalanches. Most of the incidents occurred in the spring, the busiest season
What they want
• Increment of immediate relief announced for avalanche victims
• Provide Rs 1 million* each to families of deceased
• Set up a memorial park in the name of the deceased in Kathmandu
• Cover all expenses for treatment of the injured
• Provide Rs 1 million* to critically hurt who cannot rejoin mountaineering activities
• Set up mountaineering relief fund with 30 per cent of royalty collected from issuing permits to different mountains
• Double the insurance amount to the mountaineering workers
• Provide additional chopper rescue to mountaineering support staff if insurance fails to cover the cost
• Provide perks and salaries, except summit bonus, through concerned agencies to Sherpas if they want to call off climbing this season
• Manage chopper to bring logistics and equipment from different camps if mountaineers decide to abandon climbing this season
• Don’t take action against SPCC icefall doctors if they refuse to fix ropes and ladders on the route this season
• Let the expedition members to call off this season’s climbing if they wish so
* Figure has been corrected in this web version