Skip to main content

Mount Everest climbing season up in air after avalanche deaths

By Manesh Shrestha, CNN
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1211 GMT (2011 HKT)
  • NEW: Alpine Ascents International abandons this year's expedition
  • NEW: The Seattle-based company lost five sherpas in the avalanche
  • Organizers decide not to put "pressure" on expeditions
  • There are now 13 people confirmed dead and three missing

Kathmandu, Nepal (CNN) -- Just days away from the beginning of the busiest climbing season of the year at Mount Everest, expeditions are unsure whether climbs on the world's highest peak will go ahead.

On Friday, 13 people were killed in an avalanche. Three days later, three people are still missing and feared dead after the single deadliest accident on Mount Everest.

Alpine Ascents International has decided to abandon its expedition on that peak in the wake of the accident. The Seattle-based company lost five sherpas in the avalanche.

"Making the decision was hard. We felt this was right for us. Not everyone is going to be happy with our decision," said Gordon Janow, a founding member of Alpine Ascents. "I'm not looking to profit from this season."

Ang Tshering Sherpa of Asian Trekking, which has about two dozen foreign climbers at Everest Base Camp, said his company is still weighing what to do.

"There is a lot of sadness at the moment, and it could be up to a week before a decision is made," he said.

A meeting of Nepali expedition organizers Sunday decided to leave it to the discretion of the individual expeditions whether to abandon the climbs or to go ahead. The meeting also decided not to put any "pressure" on expeditions to make a decision.

Avalanche struck just before busy season
Veteran climber on Everest avalanche
See youngest to ever climb Mount Everest
Climber: Avalanche victim was my equal
The journey to the summit of Mount Everest is a challenge that an increasing number have taken on since the summit was first reached in in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Until the late 1970s, only a handful of climbers per year reached the top of the world's tallest mountain, but by 2012 that number rose to more than 500. The journey to the summit of Mount Everest is a challenge that an increasing number have taken on since the summit was first reached in in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Until the late 1970s, only a handful of climbers per year reached the top of the world's tallest mountain, but by 2012 that number rose to more than 500.
Exploring Mount Everest
Photos: Exploring Mount Everest Photos: Exploring Mount Everest

"We cannot force the expeditions to make any decision," said Madhu Sudan Burlakoti, chief of the Tourism Industry Division of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation.

The avalanche took place just above base camp in the Khumbu Ice Fall.

Climbers and guides had been setting the ropes for the route, acclimating and preparing the camps along the route when the avalanche hit.

The path on the glacier has been destroyed by the avalanche and a new path will have to be made, Sherpa said.

The operators have decided to let the "icefall doctors" decide whether to carve another path on Khumbu Ice Fall -- and have promised to not penalize them if they refuse.

Discovery calls off coverage of Everest wingsuit jump

A question of finance

Ultimately, the guides may decide to forge ahead.

For many, the guides are the only breadwinners of the family.

Ngima Sherpa, 26, for example, supported his three younger siblings and mother from the money he made taking foreign nationals around the mountain.

He was among the 13 dead whose bodies were taken around Kathmandu in a funeral procession Monday.

Sherpas make up to US$6,000 per season. They also usually get a summit bonus if their clients reach the top of the 8,848-meter (29,000-feet) mountain.

Paid in full

About 334 foreign climbers have been given permission to climb Everest over the next couple of months, with an estimated 400 guides helping them.

On Sunday, the sherpas decided they want to be paid in full even if the climbs are abandoned. Foreign climbers spend between $40,000 and $90,000 each in their attempt to scale the mountain.

It will be up to the climbers whether they want to pay the sherpas for abandoned climbs, said Dambar Parajuli, president of the Expedition Organizers Association.

"We cannot compel the foreigners, but they also have their own humanity," he said.

So far, the government has paid Rs. 40,000 ($662) to the families of each of the 13 dead for funeral expenses. The expedition operators want Rs. 1 million each from the government.

The government makes about $3 million from royalties on Everest each spring season.

Climbers, widow recount deadly traffic jam on Everest

On top of the world in 1963

Everest by the numbers

CNN's Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0254 GMT (1054 HKT)
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0024 GMT (0824 HKT)
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0822 GMT (1622 HKT)
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2100 GMT (0500 HKT)
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
December 21, 2014 -- Updated 1746 GMT (0146 HKT)
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0251 GMT (1051 HKT)
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.