One day after the Sherpa guides at Mount Everest voted to abandon this year's climbing season, the Nepalese government is scrambling to do something that will change their minds and bring them back. Dozens of Sherpas have already left the base camp following a deadly avalanche last week, with more expected to follow. But on Wednesday, Nepal’s Tourism Ministry told reporters that the unprecedented walkout was simply due to "some hooligans ... creating problems."
According to the Associated Press, top officials from the Tourism Ministry will arrive at the base camp on Thursday to negotiate with whoever's left at the camp. Several western travel agencies have already cancelled planned climbs this year in the wake of the deadly avalanche and walkout, but at least a few climbers are staying put at the base camp, hoping that the guides will change their minds. Those who have already paid for the privilege of making a summit attempt this year will probably lose most or all of what they've spent — often a five-figure sum — once there's no hope of a season this year.
As it stands, the Sherpas already made their demands clear to the Nepalese government before yesterday's walkout. They want substantially more money in compensation to the families of the 16 guides who died last week. Originally, the government offered a sum equivalent to $415. As the AP explains, the Sherpas' counter offer is just over $20,000. The government responded by increasing the sum to $15,620, still far below what they're asking. The guides also outlined a number of other demands for the government's consideration, originally with a Monday deadline. It's not yet clear what the Tourism ministry is willing to to bring this year's (very lucrative) season back.
To be sure, a Sherpa vote to walk away from the 2014 climbing season was not taken lightly: the livelihoods of the famed guides depends on the 2-month window each year when it's relatively safe to make a summit attempt. As the New York Times explains, Sherpas can make $3000-$5000 for a season of work. The average annual income in Nepal is about $700.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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