It is rare in this world when any of us, anywhere, can have a direct, positive impact on the lives of others in need half a world away. Sonomans are going to have that opportunity on Sunday, May 18.
That’s the day the Sherpa community of Sonoma Valley and, in fact, of all California, will unite to support the families of 16 men killed April 18 in a catastrophic avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall, on the summit route of Mt. Everest.
That disaster, the worst in the 92-year history of Everest expeditions, left numerous widows and several young children without a father. And it reverberated through Sonoma’s Sherpa community, where there are numerous climbing Sherpas with Everest experience (and at least 10 successful summits) among the 80 to 90 Sherpas living in the Valley.
The pathetic remuneration historically provided by the Nepalese government to families of Sherpa climbers killed on Everest has been both grossly inadequate and insulting. The government’s first offer of 4,000 Nepalese rupees – about $400 – was rejected out of hand by Sherpa climbers who left the mountain en masse following the tragedy. A large group traveled back to Kathmandu to demand financial support for victims’ families on a par with the families’ real need, and with the economic benefit the Sherpas provide the impoverished country’s coffers.
It is estimated that Everest expeditions bring in some $3.5 million a season from climbing permits alone. Western climbers then spend many times that amount in Nepal outfitting their expeditions with food and supplies.