Today an avalanche on Mt. Everest killed 12 Nepalese Sherpas. According to The Guardian, the accident occurred while the Sherpas were fixing ropes for other climbers in an extremely dangerous ice fall area. Tourism ministry spokesman Mohan Krishna Sapkota says they were preparing the route for the climbing season that starts later this month.
Grayson Schaffer, senior editor for Outside Magazine, wrote an article last year called Disposable Man about the extreme risk Sherpas face and what little financial protection they have—for themselves and for their families—if they are injured, maimed or killed on the job.
"The thing to understand about the Sherpa workforce is that there’s no other tourism industry in the world that so frequently kills and maims its workers for the benefit of paying clients. And it’s something that people haven’t yet connected the dots on. That a 1 percent mortality rate for someone choosing to climb a mountain is acceptable, but a 1 percent mortality [rate] for the people that they rely on to get their stuff up the mountain as a workplace safety statistic is outrageous. …
If you’re a Western climber, you’re climbing the mountain once and you’re done. If you’re a Sherpa, you’re doing lap after lap after lap through this roulette wheel of hazards that we know has a death rate, long term, of 1.2 percent, and that number makes climbing Everest as a Sherpa more dangerous than working on a crab boat in Alaska. It makes it more dangerous than being an infantryman in the first four years of the Iraq War. The thing that hides that number is that the season is relatively short … and [has] a relatively small workforce.”
Photograph by Cory Richards, National Geographic
A moment for the souls of our brothers, departed.