Nepalese mountaineering officials on Wednesday denied that sherpa guides on Mount Everest plan to abandon this year’s climbing season out of respect for 16 colleagues killed in an avalanche last week.
The Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), a national body representing tourism promoters, released a statement saying they had not received any confirmation regarding the abandonment) of the expeditions on Everest.
“Whatever the news disseminated in the media about the abandon(ment) of the expedition is false and does not hold any sense,” the statement said.
Several guides and Western mountaineers said Tuesday that the sherpas held a meeting on Tuesday following an emotional remembrance ceremony at which they had agreed not to climb the peak this season.
Local guide Pasang Sherpa, part of the International Mountain Guides expedition at base camp, told AFP the sherpas still intend to sit out this season.
“We don’t know what is happening in Kathmandu, but … we don’t want to go up the mountain this year,” he said after the statement by the NMA.
The situation at base camp, described as tense by climbers there amid fears this year’s season could be wrecked, remains highly fluid. Representatives of the sherpas are locked in talks with the government in Kathmandu.
The government, expected to earn at least $US3 million ($A3.21 million) this year from Everest climbing fees alone, is eager to protect Nepal’s reputation as one of the world’s leading mountaineering destination.
Before the walkout threat on Tuesday, the sherpas had made a series of demands including higher compensation for the dead and injured, an agreement to raise insurance payments and a welfare fund.
Last Friday’s avalanche struck a party of sherpas preparing routes for commercial climbers up the mountain, killing 13 and leaving three missing in the most deadly day on the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) peak.
The government has offered to set up a relief fund for injured guides using up to five per cent of fees paid by climbers, while increasing life insurance payments by 50 per cent.
The amounts fall short of demands by the sherpas who want 30 per cent of climbers’ fees to be earmarked for the fund and life insurance payments, set at $US10,000 ($A10,711.80), to be doubled.