Everest 2014: Another Team Leaves Base Camp, Tensions High On The Mountain

800px Mt. Everest from Gokyo Ri November 5, 2012 Cropped

It has been another tumultuous 24 hours on Everest, where tension continues to run high amongst the Sherpas, who continue to mourn the loss of 16 of their companions in an avalanche last Friday. While the Government of Nepal has agreed to most of the terms set down by the mountain guides, there is still a level of distrust and uncertainty. Whether or not that gap can be bridged remains to be seen, and  while efforts are being made to do just that, the entire climbing season hangs in the balance.

Yesterday I reported that the Adventure Consultants had cancelled their expedition after losing three Sherpas in the accident. At the time, I speculated that other teams might make the same decision, and that prediction has proven accurate. The Alpine Ascents squad has also made the decision to go home. They lost 5 members of their team to the avalanche, and have been struggling with that loss ever since.

If you’ve been following this situation closely, Alan Arnette has two good posts that you’ll definitely want to read. The first, is an update on the situation, with Alan’s contacts in Base Camp providing him with a sense of the mood there. In short, those contacts report that things are extremely tense, and there is a great deal of anger in the Sherpa community. This is not unlike the emotion that was felt last year, when several Sherpas came to blows with western climbers. The local guides are feeling disrespected once again, but this time the anger is aimed at the Nepali government, and not so much the western climbers.

The second post you should read is Alan’s account of his relationship with his Sherpa. It gives you a first hand account of how a climber interacts with the man who is there to help him reach the top. It is a good read, and gives readers personal insight into how the mountaineer and the Sherpa work together.

Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that a meeting took place in South Side Base Camp yesterday, with two-thirds of the Sherpas voting to end the season. If that number is accurate, it doesn’t bode well for the climbers, and we could be looking at the end of the season by as soon as this Friday. The Times also says that two veteran Everest leaders flew to Kathmandu via helicopter in order to meet with officials from the government. The hope is that they can broker some kind of deal that will keep the mountain open.

Fox News is also weighing in on the topic, and they indicate that sources in Base Camp have told them that Sherpas have already begun to walk out. Indications are that these men are just the beginning, and that over the next few days, more will follow. CBS News is offering a similar account, going so far as to say that most of the Sherpas have already left BC.

That doesn’t appear to be the case with the Peak Freaks however. Team leader Tim Rippel has indicated that he has offered his Sherpas full-pay, even if they decided to go home. They all have chosen to stay.

It seems that no matter what the government says, or the western climbing leaders, if the Sherpas make the decision to go, they will go. Anger, resentment and grief seem to be the emotions that are most prevalent in Base Camp at the moment, and only time is going to help heal those feelings. For now, we’ll all just have to wait and see what happens.

Kraig Becker