Nepal’s Sherpa community has announced it's pulling the plug on Mount Everest's climbing season in the wake of an avalanche that claimed 16 lives. The news arrives just as Everest was about to enter its busiest season; an estimated 334 foreign climbers were expected to scale the world’s tallest peak in the coming months. Around 400 Sherpas would have guided them.
"We had a long meeting this afternoon and we decided to stop our climbing this year to honor our fallen brothers. All Sherpas are united in this," local guide Tulsi Gurung told AFP.
On April 18, 16 Sherpas were killed when a massive avalanche descended on Mount Everest's Khumbu Icefall. The death toll makes it the single deadliest accident in Everest’s history. Two well-known Everest expeditions, Adventure Consultants and Alpine Ascents International, have already cancelled their expeditions for the season. Meanwhile, hundreds of mountaineers still wait in limbo as other expedition companies decide whether to abandon their climbs or forge ahead.
The decision to halt the climbing season will have a profound financial impact not only for international climbers, who pay between $40,000 and $90,000 to scale Everest, but for the Sherpas themselves. Many Nepalese Sherpas rely on these expeditions for their income, making up to US $6,000 per season, often with an added bonus if their clients reach the summit. The average annual salary in Nepal, in contrast, is $700.
The deadly avalanche has also prompted calls for a climbing boycott among Nepal's Sherpa community. The guides are demanding more insurance money and financial aid for the families of the victims. Earlier this week, representatives of the Sherpa climbing community presented a list of 13 demands to Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism and threatened a general strike if the demands were not met by the end of April. However, the decision to halt the climbing season appears to preempt the strike.
"They have decided that compensation is not the only issue, they feel like they have to close down Everest this year as a memorial to those who died," said Ed Marzec, an American climber who spoke to AFP.
Rebecca Hiscott is Travel + Leisure's digital intern. Follow her on Twitter at @rebeccahiscott.