The news out of Nepal this past week has been grim. At least sixteen Sherpa climbing guides were killed in a deadly ice avalanche near the top of Mount Everest just before the official start of climbing season. We explored the social and economic factors behind the parade of foreign climbers who rely so heavily on the work of local Sherpa guides in an April 24 broadcast, but there’s so much at stake at the top of the world.
Our hour opened with a live conversation straight from Mount Everest’s base camp (via the still-appreciated modern wonder of a satellite phone), where renowned documentary filmmaker and climber David Breashears told us about the ongoing negotiations between the Sherpa guides and the Nepali government, and the sheer blunt tragedy of the deadly avalanche.
“The climbing season is over,” Breashears told us. “Most of the teams have agreed to pack up and go home.”
Reports out of Nepal have varied from stories of a total climbing boycott to a kind of “Sherpa strike,” but Breashears noted that the story on the ground is still highly fluid.
“It hasn’t been a very good year on the mountain,” he said. “This tragedy has been compounded by very cold, and windy, and cloudy weather.”
The Sherpa community has mostly rallied together to ask for better pay, greater insurance for their families and better working conditions, among other demands. For the moment, however, the climbing guides in Nepal’s Sherpa community have banded together in sympathy and remembrance of those who died in the avalanche.
“There’s a tremendous amount of confusion here,” Breashears said. “Nothing like this has ever happened here. People still don’t know the ramifications of what happened, what the outcome will be. It’s going to take a long time to sort through this.”
What do you think? How should the working conditions for Nepal’s Sherpa climbing guides change in the aftermath of the tragedy? Should climbing season continue this year?