Although the chances of Mount Everest's sherpa guides returning to work were already slim-to-none, there were a handful of hold-outs still remaining at the south-side base camp in Nepal in hopes that something would change. Now, it looks like even the hold-outs are giving up after a fresh round of avalanches on Friday hit the very same spot as last week's deadly disaster.
After 16 sherpas preparing a dangerous ascent path for recreational climbers died in the April 18 avalanche, a majority of sherpas voted to abandon the season altogether. But until the avalanche on Friday, Nepal's government — along with a handful of western tourists still hoping to ascend — was trying to figure out a way to keep the short climbing season open. But things at the camp were tense, as the Sherpa community stood by its decision not to climb, both out of respect for the sherpas who were killed and because the Nepalese government has not yet met their requests for adequate compensation for the fallen.
Climber Alan Arnette has been blogging about the situation this week from the base camp, and wrote about Thursday's last-ditch effort to save the season. Basically, the Nepalese government has insisted the lucrative mountain is still open, but the reality at the camp has been exactly the opposite:
The Ministry of Tourism issued a press release saying the mountain is open and everyone is welcome to climb.
Teams are packing even after this release. The future climbing plans all have to do with the Icefall Doctors and if they will stay and mange the route through the icefall. They have been threatened, their families have been threatened if they stay and they have told other teams they are leaving. This could change if the military comes in but it still leaves their families at risk.
I have heard of no teams planning to climb and at least 10 have said they are leaving officially including...the largest teams with the most Sherpa who do all the real work, without them, the season is over.
After today's avalanche, Arnette wrote, "Teams are leaving, it's over for all. Time to mourn and regroup." Hopeful climber Ed Marzec told NBC that the current conditions were likely too dangerous, even if climbers could find someone to guide them up: "The sherpas say the ice conditions have changed so much and so rapidly, they have created extremely dangerous conditions which prevent finding a safe route to the summit." Marzec added that he himself heard a "crack" of ice as his plane took off from the camp late Thursday. There's no telling how many more people might been killed by this fresh round of avalanches had the sherpas never gone on strike.
Although the climbing season is almost certainly over at the more popular southern base camp, some climbers will likely try to ascend the world's tallest peak from the much less traveled, Chinese government-run northern route. Somewhere between 50-to-100 climbers are currently beginning a northern ascent, with the assistance of Tibetan guides, as National Geographic reported.