Govt addresses major demandsIn a ground breaking move, the government on Tuesday agreed to meet most demands put forth by mountaineering and guide associations
In a ground breaking move, the government on Tuesday agreed to meet most demands put forth by mountaineering and guide associations, including raising the insurance coverage to each individual ‘mountain worker’ on the world’s highest peak to $15,000, up from $10,000.
But mountaineering guides, who have threatened to boycott the spring expeditions, are on a “wait and watch” mode. It’s a case of divided loyalty.
The government has also decided to allocate 5 percent royalty collected from the mountaineering activities to set up a mountaineers’ relief fund. The amount will be mobilised from the 30 percent royalty which is currently being allocated to the local communities.
The government decision was on Tuesday relayed to all guides and mountaineers—some 600 of them—currently at the Everest Base Camp. “We aren’t sure whether the guides will buy the government offer yet. Still, no one has decided to quit the expedition either,” Lam Babu Sherpa, a technical committee coordinator of Nepal National Mountain Guide Association, said on the mobile phone from the Everest Base Camp.
On one hand, guides including ‘Icefall Doctors’ (who make the climbing easy by fixing ropes) want to be loyal to their clients who are here to realise their dreams of conquering the world’s highest peak. Each foreign mountaineer on Everest spends anywhere between $40,000 and $60,000.
On the other, the guides also want to be loyal to their fallen comrades and honour their memory by quitting the mission altogether and declaring 2014 the Black Everest Year—the deadliest single day disaster that saw 16 perish in the slopes of the mountain.
“It’s obviously a huge call that no one has dared to take a lead,” said Sherpa. “It’s not the question of this year’s expedition. We should think about the future too. And quitting suddenly could dent our image,” said Sherpa, who is also a member of the International Mountain Guides.
Kaji Sherpa, one of the nine survivors of the Friday’s disaster, said that the climbing should not be abandoned as many eke out a living on the season’s expedition. “Clients should not be left in the cold either.”
The Tourism Ministry has issued climbing permits for 39 groups comprising more than 330 individuals and more climbers are applying for the permits this spring. The government has collected $ 3.20 million in revenue.
However, some foreign mountaineers, supported by the Nepali guides who died and injured in the avalanche, have quit their mission. There is no development so far on repairing the trail damaged by the avalanche.
Some guides said that if the Icefall Doctors find an alternative to the existing passage, it would be safer as guides fear that there could be another deadly avalanche on the same trail.
Meanwhile announcing the government decision, Madhu Sudan Burlakoti, chief of the Industry Division of the ministry, said: “The decision has been made and will take few days to be effective as some of the financial issues should be cleared by the Finance Ministry and the Cabinet.” He has also appealed to all the guides not to abandon their mission.
The ministry said that it would make an arrangement to provide the increased insurance amount to the families of those deceased on Friday.