Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mother Goddess of the Earth

In light of the recent tragedy on Everest much discussion has been going on with people trying hard from within the ethos of grief and mourning to articulate the myriad number of issues at hand. People trying to explain what is at stake with the halting of this season's summit attempts from the South side...summit attempts, however many 'first's', even a wing-suit jump from the top...etc. Nowhere has the talk had more of a deep and distressing impact than here in Kathmandu.

A friend has written forcefully and informatively on her blogsite found at and today I added this comment (slightly re-edited):

Great article Donatella, lots to tell and a complex issue to be sure. I like to bring it back to basics and something that isn’t much discussed in the media nor understood by climbers including some Sherpas. Mingma Sherpa (of considerable local renown!) last night at the Le Sherpa fundraiser (here in Kathmandu) for families (they raised 1.72 lakh Rupees!) in his talk made numerous references to Qomalongma, Mother Goddess of the Earth known to Sherpas as Sagarmatha and to the world as Mt. Everest. She has spoken, she is disturbed and has been for some time voicing her discontent at the abuse meted out to her season after season. This season, early on and low down on the mountain she roared her rage claiming as victims the very people who revere her but have fallen victim to the shallow trappings of monetary gain.
The ego-driven commercialization of climbing the SE Ridge is a relatively recent phenomenon and is what has led to the competition between foreign guides and agencies (clouding good judgement), the excessive queueing, the arguments and animosity between Sherpas and foreigners, the build up of garbage and indeed the prolonged more frequent exposure of all climbers but particularly those hard at work through the (now infamous) Khumbu Icefall. Ego and commercialization are quite contrary to the reverent and respectful challenge that used to motivate climbing on the mountain and it was a special space and place reserved for serious climbers. Indeed on the North side this remains the case to a certain extent. All routes from the North are more technical, steep and prone to objective hazards often seen on north facing slopes. The routes demand a certain climbing expertise often going hand in hand with a dedication to a sport which attracts people with a connection to the mountains, the elements and things natural…unlike some of today’s peak baggers on the south side. Hopefully this requirement to actually know how to climb will stave off the egotistical hoards (herds?) from the North side, I hope the Chinese in any case cotton on quick and excise appropriately the cost for commercial box ticking sorts. (Alan Arnette in his blog gives a great comparative analysis of North vs South and the death ratio of both.
Back to basics: Respect the mountain; that the season has been halted before it bega is the one Sagarmatha demanded. Respect for the Mother Goddess of the Earth, Respect for the dead, Respect for the environment, respect, respect, respect. This is what needs to be at the foundation of any discussion or thought about the future of commercial climbing on Sagarmatha. I wouldn’t be surprised if the destabilization of the ice flow (caused by global warming) forces a serious change in the way Nepal thinks about climbing Everest and Sagarmatha National Park tourism management in general, its gains and how these are shared with the people of the valleys of Solu Khumbu. Mother Nature has a habit of getting her way and if there was a better sharing of the benefit of Park entrance fees and the multitude of other peak fees in the area then perhaps Sagarmatha could be declared sacred….and never climbed again.
Om mani padme hum, may the souls of those lost in the Icefall gain merit from their journey and find peace in their final resting.

No comments:

Post a Comment