A valley-based adventure filmmaker on Mount Everest says there are dozens of people there in need of post traumatic stress counseling after last week’s avalanche that killed 13 Sherpa mountain guides and left three others missing.
Thom Pollard of Jackson is with a climbing group that includes 68-year-old Jim Geiger of Sacramento, Calif. – who is attempting to be the oldest American ever to reach the summit of the world’s tallest mountain.
Pollard says right now the majority of Sherpas are away, having gone home to regroup and consider if it’s worth the risk to continue.
The guides were killed by falling ice and snow as they climbed to prepare the trail for hikers above the mountain’s base camp. The hikers had planned to climb to the summit on or about May 10, 2014.
Pollard says for the Sherpa guides – who earn 10 times the annual income of an average person in Nepal – the draw to return to work is huge, but the guides are not united on what to do. They are protesting their own government as their guide work is lucrative, but also treacherously dangerous – and Pollard says something needs to be down about their lack of health and life insurance.
While some hikers and media production companies have already left the mountain, Pollard says he’s heard others checking if their insurance will cover their potential losses of tens of thousands of dollars if the summit attempt is called off.
Pollard says the situation is also a spiritual issue for the Sherpas, as three of their comrades remain lost, likely forever hidden under the route that’s littered with backpacks, helmets and other evidence of the gruesome incident.
Pollard has been on a previous expedition in 1999 but did not summit then. He says after what has happened now, he realizes it’s not important for him to reach the summit, as he’s there working to produce a film about Geiger’s experience. What is important, he says, is the way he and the others have come to make their decisions, weighing self indulgent ambition against a culture and people that have paid a very dear price for supporting those ambitions.
For more information, see Pollard’s page on Facebook.