| KATHMANDU, April 23
KATHMANDU, April 23 Nepal's government decided
on Wednesday to send a delegation of officials to the base camp
of Mount Everest to cool anger among Sherpas over its response
to last week's deadly ice avalanche in which at least 13 guides
Two Western expedition organisers said tension was running
high at the camp among the roughly 400 Sherpas there, with many
demanding that all climbs to the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot)
summit be abandoned for the rest of the season and others keen
"The mood is obviously grief-stricken as the Sherpa
community is very close-knit, and that is now somewhat turning
to anger," said Phil Crampton of New York-based hiking group
Altitude Junkies, who flew from base camp to meet Nepali
officials in Kathmandu.
Facing a barrage of demands from Sherpas, the government
announced on Tuesday that it would raise the minimum insurance
cover for Everest guides by 50 percent. It also said it would
set up a relief fund for the welfare of bereaved families and
pay for the education of their children.
In crisis talks with Crampton and others on Wednesday, it
promised to send a delegation of senior government and
mountaineering industry officials to base camp to explain to the
Sherpas that their concerns are being taken seriously. Officials
said they would probably fly there on Thursday.
"The Sherpas are in a very traumatic situation," Sushil
Ghimire, secretary of the Tourism Ministry, told Reuters after
the meeting. "There was a rumour that they would abandon all
expeditions but it's not true. It is settled already."
In addition to the 13 Sherpas killed on the Khumbu Icefall,
one of the most dangerous parts of the climb to Everest, three
are missing and at least three more are being treated for
The men were fixing ropes and cracking snow and ice to carve
out a route for foreign climbers through the icefall, not far
above the base camp for most climbs on the Nepali side of the
mountain, when they were caught in the avalanche.
The accident has rekindled debate on the disproportionate
risks that Sherpas take helping foreign mountaineers scale
Everest, and it has provoked criticism that the government takes
hefty fees for climbing permits but does little for the guides
FEAR OF VIOLENCE
The government initially announced an immediate payment of
$400 to the victims' families to cover funeral costs.
But Sherpas with 31 expeditions at base camp demanded
$10,000 in compensation for the families of victims and a
doubling of insurance cover for climbs.
Guiding foreign climbers is the main livelihood for Sherpas,
helping them make up to $7,000 - and some even more - each year
in a country with an average annual income of just over $700.
However, until now there has been no provision for
government compensation for Sherpas hired by international
expeditions, and in the past these groups have offered
financial assistance on their own in the case of accidents.
Russel Brice, another expedition leader who flew by
helicopter from base camp for the meeting, said he was concerned
that the tension could erupt in violence between those Sherpas
who want to abandon the season and those who want to go on.
"We are afraid they will clash," he said. "We sent our
Sherpas home to talk to their families, and we are afraid to
bring them back to base camp."
The mountaineering season lasts until the end of May, when
rainy season cloud pushes up from the south bringing snow to
high altitudes and making climbing virtually impossible.
Everest is on the border between Nepal and the Chinese
region of Tibet and can be climbed from both sides.
(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Robert Birsel)