Mount Everest peak climbing season in doubt following Sherpa deaths

Avalanche killed 13 mountain guides

As the busiest climbing season of the year approaches, multiple deaths in a recent Mount Everest avalanche have put the feasibility of the season in doubt.

According to the Associated Press, at least 13 Sherpas were killed April 18 in the single deadliest accident on the world’s highest peak when a block of ice tore loose from the mountain. It triggered a cascade that ripped through teams of guides hauling gear.

Three Sherpas missing in Friday's avalanche are presumed dead.

Sherpas are considering boycotting the climbing season until their demands are met, angered by a lack of response from the government. The boycott could critically disrupt the livelihoods of many Nepali.

The work on Everest is widely known to be dangerous, but the pay available to Sherpas makes it sought-after work for those familiar with the terrain and high altitude.

According to the Associated Press, a top high-altitude guide can earn $6,000 in a three-month climbing season, nearly 10 times Nepal's average annual salary of $700.

Even so, Sherpas get a notoriously low cut of the millions of dollars that flow into Nepal from the climbing industry that attracts hundreds of mostly wealthy foreigners each year.

Nepal’s government announced that emergency aid of the equivalent of $415 would be provided to families of the climbers killed in the April 18 avalanche.

The Sherpas want the minimum insurance payment for those killed on Everest to be doubled to 2 million rupees ($20,800), and a portion of the climbing fee charged by the government to be reserved for a relief fund. They also want the government to build a monument in the capital in memory of those killed in the avalanche, according to the Associated Press.

Sherpa Pasang of the Nepal National Mountain Guide Association told the Associated Press they have handed over a list of demands to the government seeking 1 million rupees ($10,400) each for the families of dead, missing and injured Sherpa guides in immediate financial aid. They also want assurance that the government will bring regulations to protect them in the future.

400 foreign climbers from 39 expedition teams are in limbo on the mountain, plus staff and Sherpas, Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association told the Associated Press. Many are at a standstill at base camp, unsure if they will continue or head home.

Ang Tshering Sherpa of Asian Trekking, which has about two dozen foreign climbers at Everest Base Camp, told CNN his company is still weighing what to do.

Gordon Janow, director of the Seattle-based expedition group Alpine Ascents International, told his team of 12 climbers will leave the mountain Tuesday. Alpine Ascents International lost five Sherpas in the avalanche.

Information from the Associated Press, CNN and was used in this report.

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