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Mount Everest Icon Tenzing Norgay’s Son Criticizes Sherpas’ Conditions

Everest 'Desecrated' by Huge Climbing Business 2:18

The son of a legendary Nepalese Mount Everest guide lashed out at the “circus” the climb has become, with some Sherpas risking their lives to carry coffee machines and TVs up the mountain for high-paying clients.

“[Last week] nine Sherpas climbed Everest and basically set the route to the summit,” Tenzing Norbu told NBC News. “All the client has to do is to clip in when they pass the ice fall and on they go after the cappuccino to the summit."

His father, Tenzing Norgay, and New Zealander Edmund Hillary were the first to reach Mount Everest's summit in 1953.

Image: Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay
Edmund Hillary, left, and Tenzing Norgay are shown on June 26, 1953. FILE / AP

“They’re carrying espresso machines and TV sets and whatnot,” said Tenzing Norbu, who now lives in San Francisco and is vice president of the American Himalayan Foundation.

Sherpas are now making overly perilous trips to cater to the “massive" Everest business in the tiny Himalayan country of Nepal, he added.

“For [my father] to see the circus on Everest these days and the manner in which the mountain has been desecrated and treated, I think he’d be very disappointed,” Tenzing Norbu said.

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He called on the government to make sure that the families of Sherpas who died were properly taken care of. The government needed to limit the number of people allowed to start the ascent and boost the insurance payouts, Tenzing Norbu added.

"People are being sent to work in rather dangerous areas, trips for $32 to most dangerous part of the mountain," he said. “Over the past two years 28 Sherpas have died, 46 kids without fathers,” he said. “Who cares for them?"

Not only is Nepal poor, devastating earthquakes in April and May last year left 9,000 dead and 22,000 injured.

Recent price wars have also heightened tensions between Nepalese Sherpas and Western guiding outfits. The dispute has been building for several years, but it generated new acrimony this year after some operators went public with concerns that the newer cut-rate competitors are cutting corners on safety to keep prices low.