SA climbers fearful as sherpas riot

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Copy of ST_everest summit0_CITY_E3 AP In this picture released by mountain guide Adrian Ballinger of Alpenglow Expeditions, climbers descend from the summit of Mount Everest, in the Khumbu region of the Nepal Himalayas. (AP Photo/Alpenglow Expeditions, Adrian Ballinger)

Durban - Two South Africans hoping to climb Mount Everest have been advised to stay in the camp as sherpas continue to vent their anger over the Nepalese government’s refusal to send representatives.

“The sherpas are really angry that the government did not send any representatives after the tragedy and are using this as a way to force the hand of the government,” wrote Saray Khumalo on the Ubuntu Everest Facebook page.

“We do not feel threatened at all at the moment but as soon as the situation changes, I will have to make a call and abandon the expedition.”

Mount Everest experienced its deadliest day ever last week when an avalanche killed 13 sherpas hauling gear.

The accident prompted sherpas to demand a higher percentage of the government’s climber fees and better life insurance policies, in part because they take on the most perilous parts of the journey.

If the government does not act by next Monday, guides have threatened to stop climbing Everest.

For climbers, ascending the mountain is nearly impossible without the help of sherpas, who are highly skilled in reaching the 8 848m summit.

The sherpas for Asian Trekking, the company that is taking the two South Africans on their Everest journey, work full-time and received time off after the accident.

Khumalo, who hopes to be the first black woman to reach the summit and Sibusiso Vilane, the first black African to climb Everest, now wait.

“Some good could come out of this horrific event,” said Jason Grove, a South African climber who has attempted Everest. Grove has climbed five of the Seven Summits, the highest peaks on every continent. Sherpas are “the most humble people you’ll ever meet”, Grove said, adding he was saddened by the incident and supports the petition.

Sherpas handle everything from cooking to carrying gear. The dangerous part of the expedition – ascending the summit – is handled by an elite group of sherpas. Before any trip, sherpas will set ropes and ladders into the mountain for climbers.

“That guy looks after you from beginning to end. The truth is they do put their lives on the line,” said Grove.

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