The Snow Report
The problem comes when you try to describe each trip to prospective clients. Depending on the outfitter, terms like guided, non-guided, Sherpa-guided, hybrid, and logistics-only can mean different levels of service from people with wildly divergent levels of skill.
Dawa Steven thinks it’s time for the government of Nepal to step in and regulate Everest, but Simonson and Burleson are both wary of more oversight from bureaucrats in a country that’s on the verge of becoming a failed state. With millions pouring into the local economy annually from Everest climbers, it’s unlikely that the government will do anything to change the status quo.
ON MAY 26, THE second summit window of the season materialized, exactly as Fagin and Meteotest predicted. The Eddie Bauer team I was living with, having given up on the West Ridge, was striking camp, distributing porter loads, and preparing to walk the 35 miles back to the airstrip in Lukla. Their sister expedition, another Eddie Bauer-sponsored affair, made up of Leif Whittaker, Rainier Mountaineering guides Dave Hahn and Melissa Arnot, and cameraman Kent Harvey—had just summited in near windless conditions. Conrad Anker, whose North Face team had also abandoned its West Ridge attempt, had joined them on the summit, climbing without supplemental oxygen.
Then an odd thing happened. An officer from the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee had just arrived at our camp to verify that we hadn’t left any trash on the mountain. His radio was tuned to Asian Trekking’s channel, where a disturbing scene was playing out between Dawa Steven, in Base Camp, and an Indian woman, who was a client of his, at the South Col. Her Sherpas had told her she wasn’t strong enough to go up, but she refused to descend.
“Think about other people,” we could hear him say. “You’re putting other people at risk.” She was worried about losing face, disappointing her sponsors, and quitting so close to the top. “Four people died on the mountain last week, and they were all fitter than you,” he said. “If you go up, you’re not going to come back.”
The standoff went on for more than an hour. The climber’s brother was patched through from India. With a handset still tuned in, we shouldered our packs and began walking toward the buffet table and laundered sheets awaiting us at the Yak and Yeti hotel in Kathmandu. Dawa Steven stopped cajoling and told the woman that the Sherpas would drag her down if they had to. Eventually, she relented.
An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of HimEx Sherpa Dawa Tenzing. Outside regrets the error.