Numerous sherpas are considering a strike following a deadly Mount Everest avalanche. Authorities confirmed at least 13 guides were killed in Friday’s disaster. Although many climbers have died on the notorious mountain, Friday’s avalanche was the deadliest incident in Everest history.
A total of 22 sherpas left Camp 2 on Friday morning. The experienced guides were preparing a trail for climbers, who were safely waiting at base camp. As the men crossed an ice field, their progress was slowed by an equipment failure.
As reported by New York Times, the guides previously placed several ladders across deep crevasses to form a bridge. However, when they returned to the area on Friday morning, the ladders were broken.
Kaji Sherpa, age 39, survived the incident with non life-threatening injuries. Kaji said he and the others were stopped in a specifically dangerous area. When the avalanche began, there was simply “nowhere to escape”:
“If there was an open field, we could have dropped the baggage and escaped. But there was snow all around us that could have easily fallen if we stepped on it. So we were helpless.”
Rescue workers were called to the scene. However, it took them nearly four hours to reach the site. Kaji said “the hands and legs of climbers [were] scattered around the avalanche site” and the survivors were screaming for help.
Kaji said the disaster prompted him to retire early. Although he is an experienced guide, he is no longer willing to risk his life. As reported by CNN Kaji is not alone, as numerous other sherpas have threatened to strike.
As hundreds attempt to climb Mount Everest each year, sherpas are essential for a successful climb. The local guides have extensive knowledge about climbing, weather conditions, and the notorious mountain itself.
On average, a sherpa is paid between $3,000 and $5,000 per season. The guides are expected to hike ahead of the climbers to secure equipment. They are also responsible for ensuring the trails are safe.
Kaji said the sherpas are often faced with life-threatening situations:
“Sherpas have suffered a lot… He has to walk in the night all the time, as there is the risk of ice melting in the morning.”
The Nepalese government offered to compensate the victims’ families the equivalent of $400 US each. However, it simply is not enough. On Sunday, dozens of sherpas threatened to strike during the 2014 climbing season.
Nepal Mountaineering Association President Ang Tshering Sherpa asked the government to increase the compensation amount but Ang said the situation “has not been resolved.”
In an effort to raise awareness, numerous sherpas have threatened to carry the bodies of their colleagues through the streets of Nepal.
A sherpa strike could devastate the climbing season. As close to 400 climbers wait at base camp, nearly 600 sherpas are attempting to cope with the incredible loss.