The Irish Seven Summits expedition to Mount Everest has ended in disappointment after local Sherpa guides engaged in an industrial dispute following a fatal avalanche on the mountain two weeks ago.
The development has meant that Paul Devaney from Killoe will have to wait until 2015 to realise his dream of conquering the summit and complete his goal of successfully climbing the highest peak on each of the seven continents.
“The tragedy of April 18 took the lives of 16 Sherpa and had a very deep imprint on the local Sherpa community without whom many of us cannot attempt to etch our names into the history of this great mountain,” said Mr Devaney and the rest of the Irish Seven Summits team in a statement. “The uncertainty, lack of co-ordinated leadership and subtle intimidation experienced this week at Base Camp has also left a deep imprint on us climbers who have been forced to abandon our goal and leave the mountain.
“On Friday we sat with our Sherpa leader and discussed where things stood. By then most of the large expedition companies were officially reporting on their websites that they were leaving base camp and we could see them packing to leave. Some cited the icefall condition; many simply did not have sufficient Sherpa support to proceed. Our safety on the mountain depends on work carried out both in the icefall and in the upper mountain by specially-trained teams of Sherpa. The icefall is maintained by a team known as the ‘Icefall Doctors’ while the ropes in the upper mountain are set by a coalition of Sherpa drawn from a variety of well-established expedition teams. The Sherpa were not climbing and so those specialist teams were no longer available. The final team to show their hand on Friday was HimEx at which point we decided that we could no continue and so we decided to pack up and head down.”
Mr Devaney added that, “In the end it appears to have been a minority of rebel Sherpa with an alternative agenda who successfully derailed the 2014 season through a subtle process of intimidation and coercion, taking full advantage of the grief, sorrow and apprehension felt by our Sherpa friends and their families as they struggled to come to terms with the loss of so many of their brothers in the icefall.”
Acknowledging the dangers involved, they added: “Both Sherpa and climber share a common risk when we set foot on this mountain. The icefall is a dangerous place; it has always been a dangerous place, a frozen waterfall of ice towers sitting atop a moving glacier. Our own preparation included months of training aimed specifically at how best to travel quickly through this terrain because we know the risk that exists there.
“But we also came here with a goal, and we intend to return and complete it with the help of our Sherpa friends. We are climbers, this is what we do.”