After several more avalanches heaved through the Khumbu Icefall, where sixteen Sherpa climbers died in an avalanche while fixing routes last week, teams are finally abandoning the climb. On Tuesday, two thirds of the some three hundred Sherpa guides retreated from the mountain to mourn their loved ones and protest their working conditions. In light of these latest slides, the remaining teams who held out hope are now going home and it seems no one will summit Everest from the south this year.
This isn't to say it won't be summited. Expeditions from Tibet's north are still on schedule without a hitch. The climb from the north is significantly easier since a highway shuttles climbers to basecamp compared to a minimum trek of 39 miles from the south. Additionally, there is nothing comparable to the Khumbu Icefall on the North Col/Northeast Ridge route and climbers have safer passage to higher altitudes. The only section of the Tibetan route that is the three "steps" which in George Mallory's time would involve technical mixed climbing (inconsistant surfaces of rock and ice) at extreme altitudes. Today there are ladders climbing the steps.
China has been boasting it's ease of access, lowering permit fees and spending promotional money to encourage climbers to realize there dreams of Everest from the north for quite some time now. In the wake of this latest tragedy in Nepal and the attention paid to a volitile Khumbu, perhaps China's economy is working more vertically than they thought.
China's industrialization has been pumping out an absurd amount of emissions leading the world with 23% of the globes carbon emissions and a recent report suggested China is under-reporting it's emissions by 20%. This rapid industrialization and pollution on an unprecedented scale has taken it's toll on some tourism sites. Wild elephants in Yunnan are being squeezed from their habitats and harassed by farmers and tourists. Cultural sites in Beijing are often too shrouded in smog to see. But perhaps the pollution is not all bad for the sector. If global temperatures begin to rise and the Khumbu becomes more volatile, making passage nearly suicidal, commercial expeditions will start operating exclusively from the north. Economically the costs are lower and success rates will be higher. In our world dictated by money, it only makes sense.