How We’re Transforming a Heaven into Hell…
It was a sherpa named Tenzing Norgay of India who made it possible for the New Zealand mountaineer Edmund Hillary in 1953 to become the first in the world to summit of Mount Everest, world highest peak. It may take just a few moment of our time to pray for those sherpas who passed away few days back in the world accident at Mount Everest. Like Sherpa Tenzing, these sherpas were also trying to help the Hillary’s of the world to realize their dream of conquering Mount Everest.
From ‘Into Thin Air’ to ‘Dead and Anger on Everest’ and how…
Another devastating accident happened on the Everest summit recently which has left this old accident far behind in terms of loss of human life. But it may not capture that much attention of the world, because this time all those who have died are the poor Sherpas, unlike the 1996 accident, no one from Western world you may call mountaineer (more appropriate to call them tourists though) have died or even got injured.
This is what Krakauer had to say about the incidence in a New York Times article.
“It was the worst climbing accident in the history of Everest, twice as deadly as the infamous storm in May, 1996, that killed eight people, the subject of my book “Into Thin Air” (four of my teammates accounted for half of that grim tally). But dying on Everest has been an occupational hazard for Sherpas ever since a team led by George Leigh Mallory to attempt the Tibetan side of the peak, in 1922, became the first mountaineers to ascend higher than the lower flanks of the mountain. In the final days of that expedition, seven Sherpas from Darjeeling, India, were swept to their deaths in an avalanche. Sad to say, the job hasn’t gotten any safer for Sherpas with the passage of time. According to a piece by Jonah Ogles posted on outsideonline.com, the death rate for climbing Sherpas on Everest from 2004 until now was twelve times higher than the death rate for U.S. military personnel deployed in Iraq from 2003-07.”
You can read the full article here, DEATH AND ANGER ON EVEREST http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2014/04/everest-sherpas-death-and-anger.html
The Everest is in a mess, consider this, in the 75 years between 1921 when the first expedition to climb this highest peak in the world started, till 1996 when the major accident covered in the book ‘Into thin Air’ occurred, only 630 people reached the peak that is about 8 accents per year. From 1996 till this year, in the 18 years period 6241 people have reached the peak, close to 350 accents every year!!!
The number of people attempting to accent the highest peak in the world have increased tremendously, because it is no more the impossible task which it used to be. Now it is being marketed as a tourist destination. With increase in the number of these mountaineers-cum-tourists there is also an increase in the facilities they demand – so you have more number of Sherpas/ supporting staff working in these dangerous conditions – because it is there job to ensure the safety and comfort of these mountaineers-cum-tourists… and they do not have any better alternate career in the poverty stricken region. Nepal has been struggling with tough political and economic challenging in the last 10-15 years.
The amount of garbage which is being left behind by these increasing number of Everest climbers is also growing and threatening the crucial ecological balance of the region. But who really cares… as I said majority of the people who attempt Everest summit couldn’t care less about anything other than their own safe and comfortable trip to tick-off one more item from their bucket list.
Situation is very tense in Nepal and around Mount Everest these days, though here in India the media is solely focusing on the General Elections and World Media doesn’t really care because its just the local Sherapas and none of the PLU (People Like Us) visitor who died in this accident. Those poor sherapas who died, were just trying to make the Mt. Everest accent possible for others…
Sherpas are brave, courageous people, but even they have had enough and now they have taken this accident very seriously. An unprecedented shutdown of Mount Everest has happened now after the worst ever accident on the world’s highest peak. This has threatened the grieving Nepalese Sherpa guides and their families fearing for their livelihoods but still they wish to register their protest against the apathy of their own Govt. and the visitors from around the world.
When the avalanche on April 18 tore through the group of sherpas, they were hauling gear up the mountain for their foreign clients before dawn. A total number of 16 people died and 3 are seriously injured. Now, Sherpas are clamouring for better death and injury benefits from the Nepalese government which reaps huge revenues from the multi-million dollar climbing industry. A number of expeditions will get cancelled due to the news of this accident, which will further impact the livelihood of Sherpas.
Hopefully the media focus less on the ‘blow to international climbers who have paid large sums for the chance to fullfil their dreams of scaling the world highest peak’ and more on the the conditions of Sherpas without whom it will be impossible plan the climb in the first place. Sherpas, who works as guide and support staff for the climbers, are often the sole breadwinners for their extended families, and face an extremely desperate problem. Most of them would be now struggling to make ends meet in a country mired in poverty made worst by economic and political upheavals in the last decade or so.
“All of us came here to climb and earn. To choose not to climb is a critical decision for us,” Lam Babu Sherpa told AFP as his expedition prepared to leave Everest base camp. “A cancelled season will be hardest on us.” http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/27/us-nepal-everest-insight-idUSBREA3Q06720140427
As the climbing business has grown in Nepal, sherpas, an ethnic group thought to be of Tibetan origin from the eastern Himalayas, have become indispensable as guides and porters for expeditions.http://bigstory.ap.org/article/fearing-icefall-everest-dangers-are-clear
Sherpas make 3,000 to $6,000 during the 2 – 3 month long summit season, an extremely lucrative proposition in the region where most earn much less. The community numbers 600, ranging from cooks on Everest to guides and elite ice doctors who fix the ropes and ladders before climbers tackle the peak. http://www.samachar.com/Fresh-safety-violence-fears-on-Mount-Everest-oeylNxebaii.html
This tragic disaster has again put the focus on compensation for the families of injured or killed sherpas, many of whom are forced to rely on the charity of Western climbers despite being key to the industry’s success. The Nepalese government pledged $400 for the families of those killed to cover funeral expenses, an offer rejected by angry sherpas, whose families currently only receive $10,000 in life insurance. Medical coverage is about $3,000, which does not even cover the cost of a single helicopter trip out of base camp for treatment. The disaster underscored the huge risks borne by sherpas who carry food, fix ropes, repair ladders and more to enable climbers to reach the ‘roof of the world’.
Days after the avalanche, Russell Brice, veteran mountaineer and owner of top expedition company Himex, told AFP, “anywhere else in the world, we wouldn’t be climbing across an icefall like this one.” “We do it because it’s Everest,” Brice said.
At a funeral ceremony in Kathmandu for those killed, one woman, whose husband escaped uninjured from the avalanche, said the shutdown has left her anxious about the months ahead. “The mountain is our livelihood, this is what we do,” said Sarkini Sherpa, whose husband was preparing to leave base camp. “We had hoped he would earn enough this season to pay for our kids’ education in Kathmandu… but now I am very worried, I don’t know how we will pay our bills,” the 40-year-old told AFP.
Ultimately sherpas would have to return to the mountain soon. No matter how terrible this tragedy is and what worst is in store for them in the future, Sherpas do not really have any other option. Life is not fair, the world has always been the play ground of Rich and Powerful and it remains the same even today.