KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal's attempts to salvage the Mount Everest climbing season fell flat Thursday as major expedition companies canceled their climbs and many Sherpas quit the mountain after an avalanche killed 16 of their fellow guides last week.
While the season has not been officially canceled, guides and Sherpas said it appeared increasingly unlikely that any summit attempts would be made this season from the Nepal side of the mountain.
"Many of us think this year is not good for climbing and nobody should be going up the mountain at all," Tenzing, a 23-year-old Sherpa who goes by one name, said in a telephone interview from base camp. He described 2014 as a "black year" for Everest.
"It was bad beginning to the climbing season and it should not get worse," he said.
Friday's avalanche has laid bare deep resentments over Sherpas' pay, treatment and the disproportionate risks they take to help tourists ascend Everest. Dozens of Sherpas have packed up their gear and left the mountain, saying they want to honor the dead and pressure the government to protect their rights.
Adrian Ballinger, founder and head guide of Alpenglow Expeditions, said he and most other guide operations on the mountain decided to pull out late Wednesday.
"We all made the decision that it wasn't worth going against our Sherpas' hearts," he said, adding that he canceled out of respect for the Sherpas on his team.
A government delegation met with Sherpas at base camp Thursday in an attempt to persuade them to keep working. Although both sides said the meeting calmed tensions somewhat, there was no sign that it would salvage the season.
At least six expedition companies have canceled their climbs for 2014.
After Thursday's meeting, Tourism Minister Bhim Acharya, who led the government delegation, said the Sherpas assured him that "there will be no trouble."
"The ones who want to leave will leave and those who want to continue climbing would not be stopped or threatened," he said, referring to reports that some Sherpas demanded their colleagues walk off the job or face retaliation from the community.
Still, the practical outcome of the meeting remained unclear. The Sherpas have no single leader who makes decisions.
For some Sherpas who believe the mountain has near-mystical powers, the deaths, and the fact that three of the bodies still have not been found, mean the climbs should be canceled.
"The signs say we should not continue," said Tenji Sherpa, a 30-year-old guide, speaking from base camp.