Sherpa boycott threat over Everest disaster

A relative of one of the Nepalese climbers killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest. Photo / AP
A relative of one of the Nepalese climbers killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest. Photo / AP

Buddhist monks cremated the remains of Sherpa guides who were buried in the deadliest avalanche to hit Mount Everest - a disaster that has prompted calls for a climbing boycott by Nepal's Sherpa community.

A Sherpa boycott could critically disrupt the Everest climbing season, which is key to the livelihood of thousands of Nepalese guides and porters. Everest climbers have long relied on Sherpas for everything from hauling gear to cooking food to high-altitude guiding.

Watch: Deadly avalanche sweeps slopes of Mt Everest

At least 13 Sherpa were killed when a block of ice tore loose from the mountain and triggered a cascade that ripped through teams of guides hauling gear.

Three men who went missing in Friday's avalanche are presumed dead.

"Right now, I can't even think of going back to the mountain," said Tashi Dorje, whose cousin was killed. "We have not just lost our family members, but it is a loss for the whole mountaineering community and the country."

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, on Monday as the bodies of eight victims were driven in open trucks decorated with Buddhist flags.

Since the avalanche, Sherpas have expressed anger that there has not been a bigger response from Nepal's government, which profits from the permit fees charged to the climbing expeditions.

Ang Tshering, of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said Sherpa guides were considering a climbing boycott to press their demands. Without the guides, it would be nearly impossible for expedition teams to continue. Mr Tshering said there were about 400 foreign climbers from 39 expedition teams on the mountain and equal number of Sherpa guides, along with many more support staff.

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The Tourism Ministry, which handles mountaineering affairs, said it had not been told of any cancellations by expedition teams. Some Sherpas had already left the mountain yesterday, either joining the boycott or mourning their friends and colleagues.

The government has announced an emergency aid of 40,000 rupees (NZ$484) for the families of the deceased climbers but the Sherpas want the 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.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Prakash Man Singh, insisted the government had been working to help the Sherpas since the rescue began. "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 the group has handed over a list of demands to the government seeking a million rupees each in immediate financial aid for the families of dead, missing and injured Sherpa guides.

It also wants the government to create regulations to protect guides. "The government has made no big response even after a big tragedy like this," he added.

Donations to the Everest Avalanche Appeal can be made here.

- UK Independent

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