Sherpas Killed on Everest Cremated as Survivors Call for Boycott

Climbing community still reeling from deadliest day in peak's history

A Buddhist monk sets fire to the body of Ankaji Sherpa, who was killed in Friday's avalanche on Mount Everest, during a cremation ceremony.

The remains of Sherpa guides killed by Friday's avalanche on Mount Everest were cremated on Monday, with people lining the streets of Kathmandu to watch as bodies were taken by truck through the streets, according to news reports.

At least 16 mountaineers died in what was the worst single accident in history on the world's highest peak. At least thirteen of the dead were Sherpas.

Nepali Sherpas have called for a climbing boycott until their government meets certain demands: more insurance money, more financial aid for victims' families, and stronger climbers' rights.

It's still unclear whether climbing will go ahead on Everest this season. It's early in the season, and some teams will likely want to continue their ascent. For now, the hundreds of people at base camp are still in shock.

Thirteen bodies have been recovered, and three are permanently entombed in ice. No Western climbers died. (See "Mount Everest's Deadliest Day Puts Focus on Sherpas.")

Buddhist monks offer prayers at a funeral procession in Kathmandu for Nepali Sherpa climbers who died in the avalanche.

Questions and Devastation

Those in the climbing community expressed shock and grief about the accident, even as they waited to see if climbing season would continue.

"It has been devastating up here," said Todd Burleson, owner of Alpine Ascents International (AAI), one of the more successful guiding operations on Everest.

Alpine Ascents International lost five Sherpas in the accident, four of whom have been recovered.

Burleson and his top Sherpa, Lakhpa Rita, flew all four bodies by helicopter to their respective villages.

"It's just a very sad, sad affair," Burleson said by phone from Pheriche, a small village just below base camp in the Khumbu Valley. "Everyone is of course at a loss for what to do, how to handle it." (Related: "The Aftermath of Everest's Deadly Avalanche.")

"Now the process begins," said Burleson. "The process of grieving."

Relatives of mountaineers killed in the avalanche on Mount Everest mourn at a funeral ceremony in Kathmandu.

A Legacy of Climbing

Sherpas have been used as porters on Mount Everest from the beginning of mountaineering there, and they have been dying on the mountain since the first serious attempt to climb it by George Mallory and his team in 1922, when seven Sherpas were killed by an avalanche.

Sherpas are not dragooned onto Everest. They choose it. The average income in Nepal is about a thousand dollars a year. A Sherpa can make $5,000 in three months of work in one spring.

Sherpas are mountain mercenaries, in part through economic necessity. Many see humping loads on Everest as the best way to support their families. All of them have lost friends. (See "Pictures: Climbing Everest Through History.")