After sixteen of their colleagues lost their lives on the first climbing day of the year, Mount Everest's sherpa guides voted on Tuesday to end the 2014 climbing season entirely, the AFP reported. Some of the guides have already left the mountain in mourning for their colleagues, while others will pack up and follow suit soon.
Although the sherpas threatened to quit this season unless the government awarded them higher compensation for their grueling, risky jobs, the vote to end the season now is mainly about honoring the dead. "How can we step on it now?" Pasang Sherpa told the AFP, "Sixteen people have died on this mountain on the first day of our climb."
Sherpas climb the mountain first each season to prepare the way for the recreational climbing season in the spring. It's dangerous work, all in the name of making things easier for the mountain's paying customers. The guides have long argued that their compensation for the climbs, and the insurance payouts from the government in the event of a disaster are not nearly enough for the nature of their work.
That complaint was repeated in the wake of the deadly avalanche this weekend, prompting talks between the Nepalese government and the Sherpas. The Sherpas also asked the government for additional regulations to protect them. The Nepalese government makes a profit off of the permits it sells to tourists and adventurers who want to climb the world's highest peak, as the Associated Press explained.
The annual climbing season is vital to the economic well-being of the ethnic Sherpa community, so a vote to shut down an entire season is not something the Sherpas would have taken lightly. Friday's tragedy was the deadliest avalanche in the history of Mount Everest.