One week after the horrific day in Mount Everest which resulted in the death of 16 sherpas who were crushed by falling ice and snow, the climbing season has been called off for the year in Nepal. This once again brings to light the extremely dangerous conditions under which the sherpas work and the negligible support they receive from the Nepali government.
A sherpa community leader, Tulsi Gurung, gave a brief interview to The Dissociated Press. Transcript below:
Vettiguy: Why did the sherpas call off the climbing season so early?
Sherpa Gurung: Well, we figured being around alive and healthy for our families was more important than being poorly compensated biological accessories in the egotistical pursuits of Norwegian men who have nothing better to do with their lives.
Vettiguy: Makes sense. Statistics show that being a Sherpa on Mount Everest is far more dangerous than being a U.S. soldier in Iraq!
Sherpa Gurung: At least the soldiers fool themselves into thinking they are dying for a higher purpose. We don’t even get to tell ourselves such comforting lies.
Vettiguy: It does beg the question – is climbing Everest even a big deal anymore? Hasn’t it gradually lost its charm over the last 50 years?
Sherpa Gurung: We don’t really understand why rich white men want to keep doing it. The last time it was a big deal, Narendra Modi was serving tea at Vadnagar railway station. The last time it was a big deal, people were still listening to The Beatles. The last time it was a big deal, the only person Dick Cheney was torturing was his mother.
Vettiguy: Ok, I think we get it. What message do you think Everest is sending your people through these increasingly frequent accidents?
Sherpa Gurung: Message? How about –‘I’ve had enough of you twats climbing all over me. Stay the f**k away’?
Vettiguy: Hard to argue with that. But do you think it’s wrong that foreigners routinely get the best safety equipment for themselves on the climb while making the sherpas to get by with minimal protection?
Sherpa Gurung: To be fair, many of them don’t buy cars with passenger side airbags either.
Vettiguy: Am sure they still love their wives very much. Isn’t it true, however, that sherpas are born with unique genetic adaptations that help you navigate life in high altitudes?
Sherpa Gurung: Sure, it’s good to have those abilities as defenses in the course of normal life. Climbing Everest, however, is begging for trouble. Let me put in terms of an analogy your generation will understand. Just because your iPhone can survive the odd exposure to water doesn’t mean you keep dunking it in your toilet as a daily test.
Vettiguy: Agreed. Does it make sense to compare sherpas to WWE wrestlers? Both put their bodies and lives at risk every day at work for flimsy entertainment and little money.
Sherpa Gurung: When a wrestler dies, they at least play a nice video montage on the big screen to which fans shed a few tears.
Vettiguy: True. Why doesn’t the Nepali government do more to help your community?
Sherpa Gurung: Like governments everywhere, they are focused on the ones that truly need help. Troubled oil companies.
Vettiguy: Touché. What kind of monetary compensation do you get from your government in case of fatalities?
Sherpa Gurung: About $400. It costs our families 10 times as much to just hold the funeral. Its the government’s fun way of incentivizing us to stay alive.
Vettiguy: That’s rough. Are there any positives at all to being a Sherpa?
Sherpa Gurung: As you can imagine, we spend very little time dealing with insurance salesmen.
Vettiguy: I think that counts. What do you have to say to those who still want to come back to Everest?
Sherpa Gurung: If you really want a mountain to climb, try being a girl in Afghanistan who wants to get an education.