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Nepal Agrees to Sherpa Demands as Everest Strike Looms

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal agreed Tuesday to set up a relief fund for Sherpas who are killed or injured in climbing accidents, one of several key concessions to the mountain guides after Mount Everest's deadliest disaster.

The announcement by the Tourism Ministry came after the Sherpas threatened a climbing boycott unless the government agreed to adequate compensation. A boycott would throw the lucrative Everest climbing season into doubt.

There are about 400 foreign climbers from 39 expedition teams assembling at base camp and waiting for the May climbing window to open.

Nepal appears to have agreed — at least in part — to many of the most important demands, although the funding falls well short of what the Sherpas wanted. There was no immediate official response from the Sherpa community.

Sherpa guides were hauling climbing gear between camps Friday when a chunk of ice tore loose and triggered an avalanche. Thirteen bodies were recovered and three Sherpas still missing are presumed dead.

Everest’s Sherpa guides consider boycott 0:18

The government quickly said it would pay the family of each Sherpa who died 40,000 rupees, or about $415. The Sherpas said they deserve far more — including more insurance money, more financial aid for the families of the victims and new regulations that would ensure climbers' rights.

Pasang Sherpa, a guide stationed at Everest base camp, said many Sherpas are agonizing over whether to scale the mountain this year after so many deaths.

"The expedition teams want to continue because they are already here, already spent for their trip," he said. "But they need Sherpas to continue."

The Everest climbing season provides livelihoods for thousands of Nepali guides and porters. Climbers have long relied on Sherpas for everything from carrying gear to cooking food to high-altitude guiding.

If the Sherpas boycott the season, many of the climbers would have to forfeit most or all of the money they have spent to go up Everest, which in some cases adds up to $90,000.

— The Associated Press