Many mountaineers left behind their dream of climbing Mt. Everest yesterday (April 24), after Nepalese officials failed to break an impasse with anguished Sherpa guides who refuse to climb following last week’s deadly avalanche. April 18, 2014 is now the deadliest day in the history of Mount Everest. The April 18 avalanche knocked down at least 25 people who were climbing at an altitude of about 19,500 feet and killed 16 people, all of them employed as high-altitude climbing Sherpas. Now Sherpas do not wish to scale the mountain again this year out of respect for the 16 guides at least three of whom are still buried under the snow and ice. They also fear more avalanches. Read more about the failure to reach agreement at the L.A. Times.
Jon Krakauer at the NewYorker.com presents the best short account I’ve seen so far of ongoing emotional aftermath of the avalanche. Krakauer is author the best-selling book Into Thin Air about the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, in which eight of his own fellow climbers were killed.
He says climbing technologies have helped more people get to the top of Everest, but have increased risks for Sherpas. For example, he says:
Western climbers now use bottled oxygen much more liberally than they did in the past, and many Western climbers now prophylactically dose themselves with dexamethasone, a powerful steroid, when they ascend above 22,000 feet.
Sherpas use neither of these aids, but they are required, for example, to carry the extra oxygen and to carry heavy packs multiples times through dangerous passes.
In the aftermath of the April 18 disaster, many Sherpas are understandably angry. Read Jon Krakauer’s article at NewYorker.com.
Bottom line: Mountaineers began leaving Mt. Everest yesterday (April 24, 2014) as Sherpas refuse to climb the mountain again this year, out of respect for the 16 who died in last week’s fearsome avalanche. April 18, 2014 is now the deadliest day in the history of Mt. Everest. This post talks about technologies that have enabled more people to climb Everest, while making things tougher for the Sherpas.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.