Sherpas struggle with climbing season in disarray

Updated 25 April 2014
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Sherpas struggle with climbing season in disarray

KATMANDU: With Mount Everest’s climbing season in disarray, the Sherpa guides who decided to abandon the mountain this year after a deadly avalanche said Friday that they would struggle to make ends meet.
Last week’s avalanche was the deadliest ever recorded on Everest, killing 16 of the guides and exposing long-simmering resentment by Sherpas who say they face disproportionate risks ushering foreign tourists up the highest mountain in the world.
While the work on Everest is dangerous, it has also become the most sought-after source of income for many in Nepal’s ethnic Sherpa community. A top high-altitude guide can earn $6,000 in a three-month climbing season — nearly 10 times Nepal’s $700 average annual salary.
“I have children and a family to take care of. I got some money and don’t know if I will get the rest or not,” said Ang Sherpa, who was trekking back to his village Friday. “Mountain climbing was the main chunk of our income, but we have a small tea store on the side of the trail near Namche village, where we serve snacks for the trekkers.”
Many of those who left the mountain said the risks and respect for those killed in the April 18 avalanche outweighed the money they would make.
“I got about half the pay for what I would have earned this season, but that’s enough for now,” said Dawa, who is among those who declared 2014 a “black year” on Everest and will be returning home.
“There is always going to be another season. The mountain is always there. There will always be mountaineering and mountaineers,” said Dawa, who uses one name.
Most attempts to reach Everest’s summit are made in mid-May, when a brief window normally offers better weather. Many Sherpas have other, less lucrative jobs during the off-season, including farming and running hotels and restaurants.
While the climbing season has not been officially canceled, guides and Sherpas said it appeared increasingly unlikely that any summit attempts would be made from the Nepal side of the mountain. Several expedition companies have canceled their climbs for the season, although Nepal’s Tourism Ministry has announced that those teams can try again over the next five years, without having to pay the permit fees.
Teams pay an average of $100,000 for a permit.
While the major expedition companies can survive a canceled season, smaller groups say they will struggle. Temba Tsheri, 28, who runs the Dreamers Destination Treks and Expedition company in Katmandu, said he had 20 Chinese climbers at Everest’s base camp still deciding whether to call off their climb.
“Some of the big companies have already said they are returning and are packing up their camp. But smaller companies like mine are still undecided,” he said. “We have spent money on food, equipment, oxygen, paying porters to get all that to base camp. ... How are we going to bear all these losses?”
The Sherpas who stand to lose the most from walking off the job are the ones who take foreign clients up to the summit and carry their gear, although hundreds more who cook and clean at base camp would also be hurt.
Trekking officials were more optimistic.
Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association acknowledged that it would be tough for many Sherpas and their families this year, but he noted that most Sherpas had already received at least some money for the season.
“There are many more Sherpas, like the porters who carry the loads to the base camp and bring it back to the airport, who will be paid in full,” he said.


Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

Updated 26 June 2019
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Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

  • But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues
  • The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reduce heightened trade tension with India on Wednesday, promising a renewed focus on negotiating improved trade and investment ties between the two nations.
But Pompeo, on a visit to India, gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues ranging from access to Indian markets for leading American companies to New Delhi’s demands for foreign firms to store Indian data in the country, and exports of steel and aluminum to the United States.
The two nations are “friends who can help each other all around the world,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after they met.
The current differences were expressed “in the spirit of friendship,” he added.
The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance.
In particular, the sudden introduction of new e-commerce rules for foreign investors in February angered the Americans because it showed New Delhi was prepared to move the goalposts to hurt two of the largest US companies, discount retailer Walmart, and Amazon.com Inc.
Walmart last year invested $16 billion to buy control of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart.
Just days before Pompeo’s visit, India slapped higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi.
Jaishankar, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, played down the spat on Wednesday.
“If you trade with someone and they are your biggest trading partner, it is impossible you don’t have trade issues,” he said.
India’s ties with Russia and Iran, both now subject to US sanctions, are also a sore point.
US pressure has led India to stop buying oil from Iran, a top energy supplier. The United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
The missile deal and Iranian oil were both discussed during their meeting, Jaishankar and Pompeo said, but mentioned no resolution of either at the news conference.
Earlier, Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks at his official residence in the capital, New Delhi, and they exchanged handshakes in images broadcast on television.
“The Prime Minister expressed his strong commitment to achieve the full potential of bilateral relations in trade and economy, energy, defense, counterterrorism and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
Pompeo is expected to round off the trip with a policy speech hosted by the US embassy, before departing on Thursday for a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Japan.