Most of the remains of Sherpa guides have been cremated by Buddhist monks who were killed by one of the most horrific avalanche catastrophes to strike Mount Everest this century.
In fact, Nepal’s Sherpa community have called for a boycott of all climbing expeditions until the government which profits heavily through Mount Everest adventure trips, take a bigger role in acknowledging the devastation caused to the victim’s families.
On Friday, April 18th, approximately 13 Sherpa lives were taken when a massive slab of ice broke free from the mountain surging fearlessly down the trail demolishing everything in its path.
The avalanche struck just before hikers were beginning their trek above base camp toward the earth’s highest peak.
Many who attempt the 8,850 metre pinnacle, do so during mid-May when conditions are less tempered.
A large part of the Sherpa community is heavily involved in treks up Mount Everest which include providing mountaineers with: equipment, food, transportation, lodging and climbing guides. The Sherpa people are relied upon heavily at base camp providing cooking, cleaning and porter services.
The Sherpa communities feel Nepal’s government have stayed relatively quiet on the avalanche and the devastation it’s caused for fear of scaring off potential thrill seekers.
Ang Tshering from the Nepal Mountaineering Association said a number of Sherpas have already quit with other weighing their options after the avalanche hit.
According to Tshering, as of Sunday, April 20th, there were roughly 400 foreign climbers from 39 expedition teams on the mountain, Sherpa guides equal to that of the climbers along with a number of Sherpa support staff.
Also on Sunday night, a meeting took place at the Everest Base Camp during which Sherpas and other personnel put forth 13 demands and vowed to discontinue work for 7 days until the government agreed to their demands.
On Monday, April 21st, 6 casualties were paraded in an open-bed truck that had been adorned with Buddhist flags, through the streets of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital.
The cremation services were just as emotional with nuns bellowing for the dead souls to be freed as they were covered in pine branches. The daughter of one of the victims had become so overwhelmed with grief she fainted and had to be taken to the hospital.
Working on Everest is treacherous and very risky but the work is in high demand amongst Sherpas. A top high-altitude guide can earn $US6,000 ($6423) in a three-month climbing season, nearly 10 times Nepal’s $US700 average annual salary.
Nepal’s government has responded in the form of what is being called ‘emergency aid’ – a mere 40,000 rupees ($436) for the families of the deceased climbers, though the Sherpas are insisting upon acceptable compensation.
Tim Rippel, a Himalayan guide and owner of Peak Freaks, a guiding company based out of Canada said the situation with the Sherpas is tense because profits earned by the Sherpas are miniscule compared to the profits made by Nepal’s government which somehow never trickle down to its people.
“Things are getting very complicated and there is a lot of tension here and it’s growing,” the Rippels wrote, adding of the Sherpas: “They are our family, our brothers and sisters and the muscle on Everest. We follow their lead, we are guests here.”
Within the demands made by the Sherpas, they require minimum insurance payment for those killed on Everest to be doubled to two million rupees, and a portion of the climbing fee charged by the government to be reserved for a relief fund.
They also want the government to build a monument in the capital in memory of those killed in the avalanche.
Deputy Prime Minister Prakash Man Singh spoke on Monday and said his government is working to help the Sherpas.
“We will do what we can, keeping with the standard practice to provide compensation,” he said.
Sherpa Pasang of the Nepal National Mountain Guide Association said they have forwarded a list of demands to the government requesting one million rupees per family of the deceased, injured and missing Sherpa guides in addition to immediate financial aid. They are also asking for a pledge from the government which will allow rules and directives to protect them in the future.
“The government has made no big response even after a big tragedy like this. Until they hear our pleas we will continue to put pressure,” Pasang said, concluding they have set up a meeting with key government officials for later this week.