Updated, 1:51 p.m. | Following an avalanche on Friday that produced the worst single-day death toll in the history of Mount Everest, a group of Sherpas announced today that they decided to abandon this year's climbing season, disrupting plans of hundreds of climbers, many of them waiting at the mountain's base camp.
The avalanche, which killed at least 13 Sherpas, has put a spotlight on members of this ethnic group who, renowned for their skill at high-altitude climbing, are often guides for such expeditions.
With the ability to earn $3,000 to $5,000 a season — a substantial amount for a region where there is little opportunity for employment other than potato farming — Sherpas put themselves at great risk for affluent clients, fixing ropes, carrying supplies and establishing camps for the climbers waiting below, exposing themselves to the mountains first.
Insurance, however, is often adequate. Sherpas are asking the Nepalese government for $10,000 to be paid to families of the guides killed in the avalanche as well as those who were injured and cannot resume work.
"We had a long meeting this afternoon, and we decided to stop our climbing this year to honour our fallen brothers. All sherpas are united in this," Tulsi Gurung, a local guide, told Agence France-Presse.
The strike comes on the heels of a series of proposals from Nepal's government to cope with the crush of climbers on Mount Everest (on a single day in 2012, 234 climbers reached the peak, with some unable to stand on its highest point because it was so crowded).
With foreigners increasingly bringing their own guides, Nepal this year proposed requiring outsiders to hire a local guide for any ascent above 26,000 feet.
And on March 3 the government announced it would require every climber returning from the summit to bring back at least 18 pounds of garbage, the first concerted effort to eliminate the estimated 50 tons of trash left on the mountain over the past six decades.