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Plight of Sherpas

under expedition leader, John Hunt, the mountaineers Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay conquered mount Everest in May 1953. Since then more than 3000 people have climbed the peak. Roughly 4% of those who attempt the climb dies. On 18 April 2014, sixteen local Sherpa guides died under snow and boulders, following an avalanche, the worst single accident in Everest’s history. The Sherpas were angered by the Nepal government offering families of the victims $400 (238 Pound); which  covered only funeral costs. The deceased Sherpas were fixing routes and carrying equipment for climbers through the ice fall, above Base Camp, for the spring climbing window, when an avalanche swept them away. Expedition leaders, politicians and leading Sherpas are lobbying the Nepal government, to improve compensation for guides. There have been demonstrations before and after the funerals. The Nepalese Sherpas have closed Everest to commercial climbing, amid mounting anger over pay and conditions. They have called for higher pay, improved medical insurance, and an immediate pay out of $10,400 to the families of those killed, a 25-fold increase on the $415, currently being offered by the government. The Sherpas have asked for the creation of a relief fund, using 30% of the $11,000 fees paid by foreign climbers to Nepal’s government, for permits to scale Everest.

It is a tragedy that mountaineers scale different peaks in the Himalayas, including the ‘charming’ Everest, with the help of Sherpas. They are blind without Sherpas and yet the Sherpas are denied the official status as climbers in record book. They are just guides and workers, born to serve hundreds of foreigners every year to make them proud in scaling the Everest. What is needed is a comprehensive approach by all the Himalayan nations to address the problems of poor Sherpas who work seasonally at pittance.

Frontier
Vol. 46, No. 52, Jul 6 - 12, 2014