Nepal counts cost of Everest debacle

May 01, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

KATHMANDU:  Dreams shattered and counting their losses, many foreign climbers say they might never return to Nepal to climb Everest, upset by ugly scenes at base camp and what they see as the government’s mismanagement of the peak.

Climbing Everest from the Nepalese side -- the easiest and most popular route up the world’s highest peak -- has been effectively closed this season after the worst ever accident on April 18. 

Sixteen Nepalese sherpa guides died in an avalanche, sparking a labour dispute between them and the government and a boycott that left foreign expeditions no choice but to abandon their plans.

US climber Robert Kay had planned a third attempt at scaling the peak this year, after being forced to turn back twice due to bad weather in 2010 and 2013.

The 52-year-old hired two personal trainers, spent upwards of $40,000 and took ten weeks off from his job running a motorcycle dealership in Nebraska all for an opportunity to reach the summit of the 8,848-metre mountain.

“I think about that mountain 10 times a day every day,” Kay said in Kathmandu, where others are arriving on their way home.

For some, like British teenager Alex Staniforth, who was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of nine, the heartbreak has prompted a rethink of his future plans. 

Seasoned climbers returning from Everest base camp described a tense atmosphere, saying it revived memories of last year’s infamous brawl between three Europeans and a group of sherpas that shocked the mountaineering community.

The disaster has highlighted the huge risks borne by guides on behalf of foreign clients and fuelled demands for better death and injury benefits after the government initially offered $400 to families of the bereaved.

Negotiations between guides and the government for improved conditions are underway.     AFP