KATHMANDU, Nepal — Just days away from the beginning of the busiest climbing season of the year at Mount Everest, expeditions are unsure whether climbs on the world’s highest peak will go ahead.
“There is a lot of sadness at the moment and it could be up to a week before a decision is made,” said Ang Tshering Sherpa of Asian Trekking, which has about two dozen foreign climbers at Everest Base Camp.
On Friday, 13 people were killed in the single deadliest accident on Mount Everest. Three days later, three people are still missing and feared dead.
A meeting of Nepali expedition organizers Sunday decided to leave it to the discretion of the individual expeditions whether to abandon the climbs or to go ahead. The meeting also decided not to put any “pressure” on expeditions to make a decision.
“We cannot force the expeditions to make any decision,” said Madhu Sudan Burlakoti, chief of the Tourism Industry Division of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation.
The avalanche took place just above base camp in the Khumbu Ice Fall.
Climbers and guides had been setting the ropes for the route, acclimating and preparing the camps along the route when the avalanche hit.
The path on the glacier has been destroyed by the avalanche and a new path will have to be made, Sherpa said.
The operators have decided to let the so-called “icefall doctors” decide whether to carve another path on Khumbu Ice Fall — and have promised to not penalize them if they refuse to.
A question of finance
Ultimately, the guides may decide to forge ahead.
For many, the guides are the only breadwinners of the family.
Ngima Sherpa, 26, for example, looked after his three younger siblings and mother from the money he made taking foreign nationals around the mountain.
He was among the 13 dead whose bodies were taken around Kathmandu in a funeral procession Monday.
Sherpas make up to US$ 6,000 per season. They also usually get a summit bonus if their client reaches to the top of the 8,848-meter (29,000-feet) high mountain.
Paid in full
About 334 foreign climbers have been given permission to climb Everest over the next couple of months, with an estimated 400 guides helping them.
On Sunday, the sherpas decided they want to be paid in full even if the climbs are abandoned. Foreign climbers spend between $40,000 and $90,000 each in their attempt to scale the mountain.
It will be up to the climbers whether they want to pay the sherpas for abandoned climbs, said Dambar Parajuli, president of the Expedition Organizers Association.
“We cannot compel the foreigners, but they also have their own humanity,” he said.
So far, the government has paid Rs. 40,000 ($662) to the families of each of the 13 dead for funeral expenses. The expedition operators want Rs. 1 million each from the government.
The government makes about $3 million from royalties on Everest each spring season.