Yesterday, Nima Tsering, head of the Tibetan Mountaineering Association, held a meeting at base camp on the north side of Mount Everest and announced that the mountain—and all other mountains in Tibet—are closed for the season.
According to Adrian Ballinger of Alpenglow Expeditions, Tsering gave two reasons for this closure: the risk of another high-magnitude earthquake and solidarity with those in Nepal who are still reeling from the impact.
"They've been relatively forward-thinking about it and I think they're making a fair decision," says Ballinger. "I wish that the decision to go or not was made by the teams and not national governments, but this is a unique situation."
Tsering reported that geologists in Beijing predict there's a 50 percent chance of another high-magnitude earthquake coming this season. As of April 27, the latest U.S. Geological Survey aftershock forecast estimated a 54 percent chance of a magnitude 6 or greater earthquake, and a seven percent chance of an earthquake of magnitude seven or greater.*
Now the 25 teams and 300-plus people on the north side of the mountain are faced with a new predicament: how to get home.
The crew. We all know we can't guide the worlds biggest peaks without our #Sherpa team. Our whole team is from #Phortse, a small town in the Khumbu and home to the @khumbuclimbingcenter. While these guys universally offered to stay and climb #Everest on the #NorthSide, we are in full support of the Chinese decision to stop climbing for the season. Time to get our Sherps back to Nepal so they can begin to rebuild. #everest2015 #earthquake
“There’s a lot of disappointment here because a lot of people wanted to stay and climb,” says Ballinger, adding that while they initially wanted to return to Nepal and help, they’ve been told not to.**
The families of the 12 Sherpas working for Alpenglow are safe, but nine of their houses were destroyed. Ballinger says that other teams, like Asian Trekking, suffered losses and made it clear that they were going home regardless of the government's decision.
But if climbers had been given the green light?
“My best guess is at least half of the teams would have stayed and climbed.”
*This post was updated to include the U.S. Geological Survey aftershock forecast
**This line was updated to correct an error introduced in the editing process