Mount Everest Avalanche: Are Sherpas Safe?


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The recent avalanche that took place on Mount Everest and claimed the lives of 13 Sherpas has led many to wonder how safe Sherpas really are. Sherpas are known for their high-altitude fortitude but the avalanche caused many of them to pack up their tents and leave Mount Everest.

Even before the avalanche, the Sherpas had begun to grow unhappy with their wages and felt as if they were not being paid enough for their skills and the risks they take while helping foreign travelers navigate and climb Mount Everest. The avalanche has now led the Sherpas to consider canceling all of their tours and ascents.

On Tuesday, several Sherpa tour leaders met with government officials to discuss the problem and negotiate terms that would allow the Sherpas to feel that they were being paid appropriately for their work. If the negotiations do not go well, there may be very few, if any Sherpas who are willing to take climbers to the top of Mount Everest.

"I would like to go back to my Sherpas and say, 'Look, guys, I got what you wanted,'" said Phil Crampton, the owner of Altitude Junkies, a mountaineering company, in a telephone interview. "We want the Sherpas happy, we want the government happy, and we want our clients happy. The bottom line is that if at the end of the day, the Sherpas aren't happy, we will comply and cancel our expedition."

While many Sherpas are hoping that the government will meet their demands so they can continue to work, there are also some who have no desire to return to Mount Everest, regardless of the pay or benefits they are offered.

Kaji Sherpa is an experienced Sherpa who was on the mountain when the avalanche happened. Luckily, he was not killed but was injured badly and is currently in a hospital being treated for two broken ribs. Although Kaji enjoyed his career and was good at it, he said that the avalanche has made him rethink his career path and that he will not be returning to the mountain when he heals.

“I will never return to the mountain and will prohibit my two sons from joining the mountaineering profession,” said Kaji. “There is too much risk. I will tell my children to complete their education and seek regular jobs.”

Mount Everest Sherpas can make between $3000 to $5000 in a season. The companies that hire them can charge as much as $50,000 for a tour package. Of that, $11,000 goes to the Nepali government for a climbing license. The Nepali government has made millions on these licenses while the Sherpas risk their lives for the ascents up the mountain for low wages.

The Sherpas are demanding more relief, a welfare fund, and better insurance.

Do you think the government will agree to these demands and will the Sherpas return to Mount Everest?

Image via Wikimedia Commons