While the mountaineering world continues to mourn the loss of Ueli Steck on Nuptse, life continues on the big mountains in the Himalaya. Over the past few days, teams have continued their acclimatization rotations on Everest, with most now returning to BC to rest up, most likely for one more rotation before summit bids begin sometime around the middle of May. Despite this calm before the storm however, it appears that things are not business as usual on Everest.
On Tuesday of this week, the Sherpas working on the mountain staged a protest demanding that they receive summit certificates for successfully reaching the top of the peaks they climb in the Himalaya, including Everest and the other 8000 meter mountains. According to The Himalayan Times, the lead Sherpas sent a five-page memorandum to the Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, as well as the Nepal Mountaineering Association and the Expedition Operators’ Association in Nepal, laying out their requirements and the reasons why this is important to them. Apparently, local climbers in Nepal have not been receiving those certificates since last year, and possibly even earlier.
For the Sherpas, the certificates are a badge of honor, and one that they feel that they have earned as part of a climbing expedition that they have taken part in. But, the Nepali government points to a rule in the 2002 regulations governing mountaineering that states that only paying members of an expedition team will receive such certificates.
For its part, the Department of Tourism has said that it will attempt to amend the 2002 resolution as quickly as possible so that certificates could be issued. The new regulations will reportedly recognize the Sherpas as part of an expedition – and rightly so – allowing them to collect their certificates along with the rest of their team. Last year, there were 256 Sherpas that topped out on Everest alone, none of which have received the documents as yet.
This protest isn’t just about the certificates however. It is also a symbol of the growing unrest, resentment, and dissatisfaction that many of the Sherpa climbers are feeling these days. They continue to feel disrespected, both by their own government and many of the foreign climbers that come to Nepal. This could lead to further protests, strikes, and clashes in the future as the Sherpa operators continue to grow more prominent on Everest and elsewhere.
Fortunately, it seems that things have returned to normal, and the Sherpas continue to support their clients. Hopefully this won’t interfere with summit bids in the days ahead, but I suspect we’ll continue to see more of these types of actions in the future.