A day after Nepal called off the search for three local climbing guides still missing after a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest killed at least 13 sherpas, some are considering a climbing boycott.
Sherpas are a Nepalese ethnic group, many of whom serve as guides on Everest and other mountains. Several Sherpas have quit while others are still deciding, said Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association. A full boycott could disrupt the rest of the climbing season.
"After losing so many of our brothers and friends it is just not possible for many of them to continue," said Pasang Sherpa, on Monday. He was not among those caught in the avalanche. "So many of us are scared, our family members are scared and asking us to return."
Rescuers have retrieved the bodies of 13 sherpa guides and rescued nine others since an ice and snow avalanche slammed into their expedition on Friday morning on the world's highest peak.
Authorities have ruled out any hope of finding more survivors, and with bad weather hampering efforts, they have now decided to end the search for the guides still assumed buried.
"We have decided to stop the search for the missing. We have been unable to identify the location of bodies and at this stage it is difficult to find them in the snow," Dipendra Paudel, a tourism ministry official, told the AFP news agency.
The guides were among a large party that left Everest's base camp before dawn, carrying tents, food and ropes to prepare routes for international clients before the main climbing season starts later this month.
The avalanche hit them at an altitude of about 3.6 miles in an area nicknamed the "popcorn field" due to ice boulders on the route, which leads into the treacherous Khumbu Icefall.
Dozens of guides were on the move when a huge block of ice broke off from a hanging glacier, before splitting into smaller chunks and barreling down into the icefall, one of the most dangerous areas en route to the summit.
In the wake of the avalanche, the Sherpas have expressed anger that there has not been a bigger response from Nepal's government, which profits from the permit fees charged to the climbing expeditions.
The government has announced an emergency aid of 40,000 rupees ($415) for the families of the deceased climbers. On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Prakash Man Singh said the government is working to help the Sherpas.
Tshering said there were about 400 foreign climbers from 39 expedition teams on the mountain and equal number of Sherpas guides, along with many more support staff such as cooks, cleaners and porters in the base camp.
The Tourism Ministry, which handles the mountaineering affairs, said it has not been told of any cancellations by expedition teams, said Maddhu Sunan Burlakoti, head of the Nepalese government's mountaineering department.
More than 300 people, most of them local guides, have died on Everest since the first ascent to the summit by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay in 1953.
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