By now most have heard the remarkable news that the Everest season have been cancelled from the South side (Nepal). Having spent last season up there (at least for a month of it) I can truly say that the decision is remarkable and quite surprising. The decision will influence a whole lot of people and than I am not mainly considering the western climbers, but rather entire communities in Nepal that is indirectly dependent on the climbers. While the climbers hopefully find other neighboring peaks many of them are likely to have trouble obtaining permits or support, and will go home. If they chose to go home indirect stakeholders such as the lodges, café´s, porters, yak owners, helicopter providers etc will see a significant decrease in their business.
Another remarkable thing about cancelling operations is the reference to the unsafe conditions in the Icefall. “Without repairs by the Icefall doctors, who will not be able to resume their work this season. We [IMG – one of the major expedition organisers] have explored every option and can find no way to safely continue the expedition.”. This stresses and implores at least two things. 1) The operations by the Icefall doctors are absolutely essential to the Everest business. 2) Why would not Westerners be able to pick up at least some of the slack and continue to re-fix the route through the Icefall. The first point is evidently not a big surprise. Point 2 stresses the first even further, there is not enough Westerners to guide all the clients during a season. Also stressed by point 2, the work in the Icefall, assuming that the issue is limited to that (which it do not seem to be) is that the work is too risky for the expedition organizers themselves. This is not to say I understand the rationale, the work is indeed very dangerous and I would not consider doing myself so there should be absolutely no shadow on the organisers. Still, the Icefall doctors are supposed to take the risk, with quite limited financial and equipment reimbursements and training.
As indicated, there is more to the situation than what can be read in some accounts. Other accounts provide a picture of very turbulent times where a small contingent of Sherpas are forcing other Sherpas that wants to continue the season to seed their ambitions. Following last year´s brawl between Sherpas and Uhli Steck, Simone Moro, Jonathan Griffith such news are not very nice.