4/30/14 - There is much uncertainty about the future of Mt. Everest expeditions following the April 18 serac collapse above the Khumbu Icefall that killed 16 Nepali high-altitude workers. The Everest season on the south (Nepal) side of the mountain is effectively over, as the mostly ethnic Sherpa workforce has decided not to continue on the mountain this year. No one is certain what this will mean for Everest expeditions next spring: Will the Sherpa and other Nepali workers get higher pay and death benefits? Will the huge numbers of Everest climbers somehow be capped? Will helicopters be used to ferry loads to higher camps on the mountain, thus reducing the number of dangerous trips through the Khumbu Icefall?
Amid this uncertainty, however, one thing is sure: People in America and elsewhere have opened their wallets to support the families of Sherpa climbers who lost their lives on Everest. More than $350,000 has been raised in less than two weeks for a variety of programs designed to aid Sherpa climbers, families, and children.
The biggest push came from a remarkable effort called the Sherpa Fund, launched by photographer (and Ten Sleep climbing guidebook author) Aaron Huey. He drafted nine other photographers, including well-known climbing shooters Jimmy Chin, Renan Ozturk, Cory Richards, Gordon Wiltsie, and others, to offer prints of their Himalayan images to the public. Selected with the help of editors from National Geographic and Outside magazines, more than 3,000 of these images have been sold at $100 apiece in less than 10 days.
The money raised by the Sherpa Fund will be administered by the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation, with half going to families directly affected by accidents in the mountains, and the other half supporting longer-term community assistance through the Khumbu Climbing Center and the Everest ER. The Sherpa Fund photography sale continues through midnight (PST) on April 30.
Meanwhile, the American Alpine Club has raised more than $50,000 through its Sherpa Support Fund, established shortly after the avalanche. A committee of leaders from various communities—Sherpa, guide services, environmental advocates, and others—will determine how best to allocate the funds. The AAC's Sherpa Support Fund will continue to accept donations through the end of May, hoping to raise a total of $75,000.
Several other groups are also actively fund-raising to support local communities in the Khumbu area:
• The Juniper Fund, established by Everest guides Melissa Arnot and David Morton, directly supports the families of workers killed while supporting mountaineering expeditions in Nepal.
• The Sherpa Education Fund, created 15 years ago by leading guide service Alpine Ascents International, pays for Sherpa students to attend secondary schools in Kathmandu.
• The Himalayan Trust, the organization started by Sir Edmund Hillary, has launched a special campaign after the avalanche to support its school-building, health care, and other work in Nepal. So far the appeal has raised more than US$17,000.
The Sherpa Fund photo sale has closed after raising $425,000 in just eight days, blowing away their $100,000 goal. Those still interested in photos should contact the photographers directly, some of whom have said they will continue to donate a portion of the sales.