Is climate change to blame for the deadly Mount Everest avalanche?

by Rachel Baker on April 23, 2014

Mother Nature Network asks. Its a good question and probably a pretty valid assumpion.

“In 1989 when I first climbed Everest there was a lot of snow and ice, but now most of it has just become bare rock. That, as a result, is causing more rock falls, which is a danger to the climbers,” said Apa Sherpa, a Nepali climber, as quoted in Discovery News.

“Also, climbing is becoming more difficult, because when you are on a mountain you can wear crampons, but it’s very dangerous and very slippery to walk on bare rock with crampons,” he added.

Read the whole article here

However, I think its also important to question what was going on the mountain at the time of the avalanche. Discovery has been pretty interesting in their response to the avalanche.

First, they cancel the jump.

Everest Jump Live: Update
In light of the overwhelming tragedy at Mount Everest and out of respect for the families of the fallen, Discovery Channel will not be going forward with Everest Jump Live. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the whole Sherpa community.

Understandable. Then, to be able to recoup the investment they’ve already made, they are going to make a documentary on last week’s avalanche, and encourage people to give to a relief fund for the Sherpa families who lost someone in the avalanche.

How much Discovery is giving to the families of those ‘several sherpas’ who were helping prepare for the planned jump from the summit that Discovery was covering live. I also can’t help but wonder how many ‘several’ is, and where these sherpas were and what they were doing in regards to the Discovery project at the time of the avalanche.  I think it will be incredibly interesting to see how much footage there is, telling us how much of that mountain they were “setting up on”.

So, while yes, climate change may have something to do with the weakening and lack of the snow and ice on top of Mount Everest, I can’t help but think there are other factors that had to do with the production of a live event where nothing could go wrong that also contributed in a big way.

Do the collective ‘they’ investigate these types of things or is the tourism and production industry so important to the Nepali government that they don’t want to rock the boat with an investigation…? In a country where the major tourist attraction brings in millions of dollars every year (climbing Mt. Everest costs $65,000 dollars per person) IS the major economic influx, it would be difficult to make the decision to investigate and maybe then have the people who pay the most to visit your country be angry.

On another note, Sherpas make at least $2,000 per climbing season, considerably more than the median income of Nepal, which comes in at around $540 per year. Elite Sherpas can make as much as $4,000 – $5,000 in just two months. By comparison, Western guides make as much as $50,000, plus tips. If one of them dies on the mountain, the government only provides them with abotu $400 per family and strike that was in the news this week was trying to get the amount increases to $10,000.

And here is the crux of the whole thing:
“You know there’s a lot of money in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars that changes hands on Everest every year,” says Nick Heil, editorial director of and author of “Dark Summit,” a book about the commercialization of climbing the Earth’s highest mountain. “Only a small percentage of that goes into the hands and pockets and accounts of the work force that basically enables all of this to take place.”

Sherpa’s wages are not a part of the proposed boycott, but Janow says they’re also worth discussing. However, he acknowledges it’s a balancing act. If compensation rises too much, it could damage Nepal’s climbing industry altogether.

I read that as: If you make any formal inquiries, people may not want to come back in the future.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: