In the wake of the devastating Nepal earthquake and resulting avalanches and ice-falls that killed 19 people on Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world looks like she will again be denying most, if not all, mountain climbers access to her peak for the second year in a row.
Mount Everest, known as Sagarmatha to the local Nepalese Sherpa, has a history of demanding respect, and with this latest Everest disaster, most Mount Everest climbing expeditions and climbers have abandoned their camps, basically “cancelling” the 2015 Mount Everest climbing season.
The Spring climbing season on Mount Everest is a tight window, with camps, supplies, guides and climbers arriving through April and early May. Most attempts to summit Everest, and get back down, are then made in May, before the arrival of Nepal’s monsoon season and brutal conditions return to Everest.
While the Nepalese government has avoided officially announcing a ban on climbing Mount Everest for the remainder of 2015, the BBC reports that Everest “ice-fall doctors,” that is, the Sherpas that fix the ropes and ladders required to establish the climbing routes up Everest, have come to the conclusion that ascending Everest in the near future will be impossible.
After taking a look at the avalanches, slides, ice-falls, and other precarious conditions scattered across the traditional Everest summit paths, the ice-doctors observed far too much earthquake devastation to those areas to make climbing feasible.
“With ongoing aftershocks and tremors we can’t continue expeditions,” Dawa Steven Sherpa told AFP. Dawa is a guide for Kathmandu-based Asian Trekkers and has successfully summited Everest twice. “And there is nothing in place for climbers anyway… no ropes or ladders,” continued Dawa. “So there is no point in continuing this season.”
Of course, the tragic devastation, injury, and death of at least 7,000 people across Nepal is a far bigger concern than the death of the 2015 Mount Everest climbing season. In fact, there has been much criticism that crucial emergency resources, such as helicopters, were inexplicably commandeered to evacuate 160 Everest climbers from their “Camp 1” to the “Everest Base Camp” after the earthquake, instead of dispatching those helicopters to aid the many other areas of Nepal that were hammered by the earthquake.
But while Nepal’s limited emergency resources may not have been distributed properly following the earthquake, the importance of the Everest climbing season and the money and opportunity it consistently brings to Nepal cannot be understated. For some of the Sherpas, porters, and other Nepalis, the money of the climbers and climbing companies is their income for the year.
The economic importance of trying to carry on with the Everest climbing season, despite the earthquake losses and suffering in Nepal, was reflected by the Nepalese tourism department chief, who even a week after the earthquake, was calling for climbers and their expeditions to keep their sights on the Everest summit, that routes up the mountain were being repaired and poo-pooing fears of more earthquakes and aftershocks.
And some climbers would like to continue their Everest summit bids, or be told they can’t, perhaps having their hefty right-to-climb-Everest permits carried over to next year. Which, unfortunately, brings a focus back to money amidst the sadness and loss of life, but many of the climbers aren’t the rich, cosmopolitan, elite, amateur climbers, so often lampooned in the media, but passionate mountaineers that have paid the up to $70,000 permit fee and gone to great sacrifice to make their Everest summit attempt a reality.
So throwing a life’s dream and 70 grand off a cliff isn’t real appealing to many of the 2015 Everest climbers, and the possibility that the Nepali government isn’t making a decision on shutting down Everest because they don’t want to refund climber permit fees is also unsettling.
But any final decisions by the Nepali government or other official agencies regarding climbers being allowed to continue their efforts toward the Everest summit seem moot at this point, with mountaineering companies and their clients making an exodus from Everest en masse.
Between the loss of life, and the loss of important equipment, earthquake and avalanche-sobered minds seem to have prevailed, with any climbing on Everest being postponed, indefinitely.
When the Nepal earthquake struck, a reported 800 climbers were on Everest, with a major avalanche tearing through the tent-city known as Everest base camp. Among the many tragic incidents to strike groups and individual climbers on Mount Everest, the 2015 Nepal earthquake-induced avalanches that took 19 lives is the worst.
Last year, the 2014 Mount Everest climbing season was also basically cancelled after 16 Nepalese guides were killed by an Everest avalanche.
[Images via Wiki Commons]