|Left to right:|
1) Marcus Bridle of Melbourne, Australia who also climbed Vinson in Antarctica with me
2) Mingma Sherpa who is the climbing guide for Marcus
3) Me (Jon Reiter of Kenwood, California)
Just a note to summarize the last few days. Our Sherpa friends have decided to use this tragedy to further their cause with the Nepal government. All of the climbing Sherpa (as opposed to the Sherpa that help us establish and maintain base camp) have left the mountain and have stated that they will not return until their requests are met by the Nepalese government. What they're asking for is certainly deserved and we support their cause 100%. They simply want the families of the deceased to be taken care of as well as assurances that they themselves and their families will be taken care of should they be hurt or killed while climbing Everest. There are other requests on their list (15 in all) but this is the general idea.
As I mentioned we feel that most of what they're asking for is valid and overdue. From what we understand 10% of Nepal's GDP is based on Everest revenue. It may be true that we climbers have substantially increased the quality of life here in the Khumbu Valley with all the money that's spent here climbing this mountain and trekking about but we hope that the government remembers that the climbing Sherpa are the ones putting their lives on the line, right along side us, on a daily basis. We cannot climb this mountain without them by our sides just as they were not able to climb it without our logistics and resources; we make a perfect and inseparable team. From the very beginning (1953) until today, Everest is climbed not by individuals but by partnerships.
There have been some horribly misinformed comments made lately about the relationship between the Sherpa people and western climbers. As I mentioned, both parties consider the other as equal partners in this quest. We take care of each other 24 hours a day. When the avalanche hit, it was actually western climbers (many of which were actually from our party) who spent the day, on the scene, treating the wounded and extracting the dead. We did not run from the scene. As a matter of fact, our western guides from camp one and from the Football field rushed towards the debris into the danger and were some of the first on the scene. We have several MD's as clients on our climbing team and some these docs spent their entire day volunteering their time down at BC medical treating the wounded and pronouncing the unfortunate dead. I write all of this to clear the air of the misinformed nonsense about our relationship with our Sherpa partners. We and the Sherpa people are a team of equals and there were many tears spilled and stomachs turned as we brought our friends down one by one.
We don't know how long it'll take this government to respond to the Sherpas' requests and we have limited time to move up this mountain. Several teams have already thrown in the towel and are headed downhill out of BC now. As for Marcus and me, we've decided to give it our all. We came here to climb E and we'll wait here patiently until our expedition leader tells us we can go up or we must go down. I think we're ready to climb this one. I think the weather is looking better by the day. The mountain conditions are certainly acceptable and we have the absolute best team (IMG) behind us.
Avalanches happen in the mountains. As we lay in our tents we hear them crash down around us several times everyday. Unfortunately, this is part of the risk; part of the adventure that we all signed up for. If the government and the Sherpa come to an agreement soon, Marcus and I will continue trudging uphill until we can go no further. If they decide to not give us that opportunity this year, we'll go home early, hug and kiss our loved ones and know that we've been lucky to have had the opportunity to spend time in these mountains and share many wonderful times in the Khumbu Valley with our mountain loving Sherpa brothers..