Everest avalanche: Sherpas set for crisis talks over strike threat that could 'close' mountain

Sherpas threaten expedition boycott after Everest's worst ever avalanche

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The Independent Online

Nepalese tourism officials have travelled to Everest base camp in the hope of persuading Sherpas to cancel a strike that would see expeditions up the world’s highest mountain cancelled.

An avalanche last Friday, in which saw 16 Sherpas were killed, has exposed undercurrents of resentment in the 400 Sherpas that work on the mountain, and has led to many of them deciding to take action by boycotting expeditions and leaving the mountain.

The Sherpas believe that the compensation system in place does not reflect the dangerous nature of their job. They say more needs to be given in terms of insurance money and financial aid to the families of those Sherpas that die on the mountain.

In the wake of last week’s disaster, the worst ever seen on Everest, the families of those that died were offered 40,000 rupees, about $415. However, Sherpas believe that more should have been given.

Sherpas are demanding that 30% of all climbers’ fees be put into a fund that will go towards supporting those injured while at work and the families of those that die. They are also calling for insurance pay-outs of $20,000 dollars for every Sherpa that dies on the mountain.

Currently, Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism are offering $15,000 in insurance pay-outs and a fund created from 5% of all climbers’ fees.

By travelling to base camp, it is hoped that tourist officials can come to  an agreement with the Sherpas and ensure that Everest stays open for the peak climbing season that is due to start at the beginning of May.

Climber’s fees from those that take part in expeditions earn the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism $3.5 million every year and are a crucial source of income for the government.

The clear weather in May means that it is one of the best times to ascent the peak and is one of the most popular periods for climbers.

However, a conclusive agreement between the Ministry of Tourism and Sherpas may be difficult as there is no all-encompassing Sherpa union and talks will have to satisfy a number of small groups with different demands.

Sherpas carry much needed supplies for expeditions and provide knowledge crucial to ensuring the safety of climbers, without them climbs cannot take place.

With some climbers paying as much as £75,000 to climb Everest, a strike could see many lose a lot of money.