Sherpas leave Everest; some expeditions nix climbs

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 22, 2014 at 11:35 pm •  Published: April 22, 2014
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Nepal's government appeared to agree Tuesday to some of the Sherpas' demands in the threatened walkout, such as setting up a relief fund for Sherpas who are killed or injured in climbing accidents, but the funding falls far short of the Sherpas' demands.

After the avalanche, the government quickly said it would pay the families of each Sherpa who died 40,000 rupees, or about $415. The Sherpas said they deserved far more — including more insurance money, more financial aid for the victims' families and new regulations that would ensure climbers' rights.

On Tuesday, the government's offer was modified to include a relief fund to help Sherpas injured in mountaineering accidents and the families of those killed, and to pay for rescue during accidents on the mountain. The government said it would stock the fund annually with 5 percent of its earnings from Everest climbing fees — well below the 30 percent the Sherpas are demanding. Nepal earns some $3.5 million annually in Everest climbing fees.

The insurance payout for those killed on the mountain will also be doubled to $15,620 (2 million rupees), the Ministry of Tourism said — far short of the Sherpas' demand for $20,800.

Most attempts to reach the summit are made in mid-May, when weather is most favorable. If the Sherpas boycott the season, many climbers will have to forfeit most or all of the money they have spent to go up Everest — at a cost of $75,000 or more.

The Nepal National Mountain Guide Association will try to negotiate with the Sherpas and the government because a total boycott would harm Nepal's mountaineering in the long term, said the group's general secretary, Sherpa Pasang.

While most climbers have to make multiple passes through the Icefall, moving up and down the mountain as they acclimatize and prepare for their summit attempt, Sherpas make the dangerous journey two dozen times or more, carrying supplies and helping clients negotiate the hazardous maze of ice.

Nearly 30 climbers have died on the Icefall since 1963, most killed in avalanches or when they were crushed by huge chunks of ice.

More than 4,000 climbers have reached the top of the world's highest mountain since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Hundreds of people have died trying.

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Associated Press Writer Tim Sullivan in New Delhi contributed to this report.