Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Everest Avalanche Disaster - An Unpopular Perspective

One problem common among mountaineers with juicy stories is the culture of preservation.

  • Of Self
  • Of the Route
  • Of Other Climbers

That's why some people have complained about my Carstensz Book HERE when they noticed that at a certain point in the book I become even more vague and elusive. If they'd been threatened and received promises that they would be responsible for the entire mountain being shut down, they'd be a bit nervous about becoming a mountaineering pariah unable to join any team for any mountain. The same goes for dissing any of their partners too vigorously, perhaps causing the rest of the book to be just a touch fluffier than originally intended.

If a nationally recognized climbing competition champion had to crawl up 5.6 limestone on their belly, would you narc on them in spite of the consequences?

It's difficult then to be so far away from the action and reading the news and knowing that the whole story is lurking just around the corner. Be that as it may, it was refreshing to read this quote from the legendary Ed Viesturs:
In 1991, I went to the South side of Everest with two clients I was guiding, and four other friends. We hired a handful of Sherpa. I was the climbing leader, and I'd hired them, so I felt I should carry loads with them through the icefall every time they did. I felt like I should go along, to show them my respect. The funny thing was, after a week, I could tell they were pissed at me. I finally pulled one of them aside and asked what was up. They said that every load I carried, was one less for them. They looked on the situation as though I was denying them a chance to make money. Read more: http://www.mensjournal.com/adventure/outdoor/ed-viesturs-what-went-wrong-on-everest-20140421#ixzz2zczM1vlJ Follow us: @mensjournal on Twitter | MensJournal on Facebook
Even the tiniest suggestion that there is an economic impact of climbing on the sherpa culture should be carefully worded. I enjoy how all the old-timers are called upon to sound off on these issues, with plenty of juicy tidbits of historical information. Like this from Jon Krakauer:
These days, moreover, members are apt to spend even less time in the Icefall than I did when I was on Everest, eighteen years ago. It’s becoming increasingly common for Western guides and members to acclimatize in hypobaric chambers before they arrive in Nepal, or on other, less hazardous Himalayan peaks in advance of their summit assaults, greatly reducing the number of times they must expose themselves to the perils of the Icefall. Some members now make only a single round trip through it, while each of the sherpas supporting them must still pass through that hazardous terrain between two and three dozen times. Most Western climbers feel more than a little guilty about this, but I know of none who have ever offered to take an extra lap through the Icefall with a heavy load in order to reduce a sherpa’s exposure. LINK
Obviously he and Ed haven't talked about that. But in light of the very carefully and quietly ignored violent incident from last season we can suppose that no one should be climbing above, or ahead of, the sherpa. This of course exposes them to the Icefall in a different way. Here's an example of how to delicately discuss this:
The fight broke out during the peak climbing season between three European climbers and a group of Sherpas after a dispute over mountain etiquette. It caused the British, Italian and Swiss climbers to abandon their ascent to the summit. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2587846/Nepal-set-introduce-restrictions-climbers-Mount-Everest-death-zone.html#ixzz2zdmH4Dmh Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
If your guides were so busy changing clothes, banners, and toys to make sure they got summit shots for every one of their sponsors that they abandoned you to descend alone in a storm, would you write about it in spite of the consequences?
To me it's quite sad that anyone should die in an avalanche. Here in the US alone 26 riders died in the 2013-2014 ski season SOURCE and that's bad enough without the confirmed 17 dead from Everest last week. I've seen lots of avalanches and have a great respect for them. I am also saddened at those politicizing this event, and have seen a lot of trash talking on the 'net about it. When you only have a tiny bit of the story it's hard to make an informed decision.

I think if the season is closed that might have a serious negative impact on next season, and sounds like a knee-jerk reaction. The government is working hard as it is to add restrictions that prevent climbers from going without sherpa support, from climbing ahead of the sherpa, and even from trying to establish individual climbing goals. You can verify these HERE, HERE and HERE if you're so inclined.

We should know in the next few days how this season on Everest will play out. I'm hoping for the best all around, which might be an unpopular perspective.


Apparently here is someone unafraid to voice their own observations.

Quote:  In addition, a small but powerful group of Sherpa are threatening violence against any climber who chooses to stay. The situation has gotten so bad, the Nepali military is being flown into base camp today to try and protect any climbers and Sherpa who choose to stay. This is not what Everest is supposed to be about. I have to admit that I feel completely lost right now as my life, over the past seven months, has been focused on training and getting mentally prepared for this one climb. And now suddenly it's over before I even had a chance.