A man who spent £40,000 on a doomed expedition to climb Mount Everest is to fly home this week following the death of 16 Sherpas in the mountain’s worst-ever avalanche.
Ian Mitchell, a 62-year-old retired PE teacher, had spent decades dreaming of tackling the ultimate challenge and was looking forward to the 64-day trip along with a party of two Australians, a Belgian and four British climbers.
But the timing could not have been worse as a huge row exploded after the accident which occurred three quarters of the way up The Khumbu Icefall, a particularly dangerous part of the climb, towards Camp 1.
Despite Nepalese tourism officials travelling to Everest base camp to try to persuade the Sherpas to cancel a strike that would enable expeditions to continue up the world’s highest mountain no deal was forthcoming.
Sherpas are furious that the families of those who died are being offered a mere 40,000 rupees, about $415. They are also demanding that 30% of all climbers’ fees are put into a fund that will go towards helping those injured while at work and the families of those that die.
In addition they want to see insurance payouts for $20,000 for every Sherpa that dies on the mountain.
Mr Mitchell’s wife Karen, a 54-year-old Huddersfield University employee, who accompanied her husband for the first three weeks to Base Camp at 5,350m, said he would be returning on Friday, (May 2), with several weeks of the trip remaining.
Mrs Mitchell, of Netherton, said: “Of course Ian is very disappointed. The company that he has gone with, (Jagged Edge of Sheffield), has cancelled the expedition today.
“When I left him at base camp we were having a good time, we had been trekking and he was ready for the real nitty-gritty.”
The father-of-two’s love of mountaineering goes back to his teenage days and he has climbed mountains all over the world.
He had hoped to plant a Moor End Academy banner on the summit along with one from his athletics club, Longwood Harriers.
Tom Briggs, a director of Jagged Globe, a highly respected company based in Sheffield, which pioneered the first commercial trip to Everest in 1993, said one of their Sherpas, Pasang Karma, had been killed in the avalanche. In addition five more were injured and one of them is still in hospital in Kathmandu.
In a statement on the company’s website expedition leader David Hamilton and Mr Briggs said: “We are cancelling the expedition as there is no prospect of replacing our Sherpas and because there aren’t now sufficient Sherpas in base camp to fix ropes on the mountain and make it safe to climb.
“Our team are sad and disappointed that the expedition must come to an end.”
Mr Briggs told the Examiner: “You have to sympathise with the Sherpas. They feel like they need a period of mourning to get over this tragedy. Other teams are leaving.
“Mountaineering is unpredictable. Last year we had 10 people climb to the top of Everest, a 100 per cent success rate.”
Asked what would happen to Mr Mitchell’s £40,000 bill for his trip he said he would need to make a claim through his travel insurance.
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