The Everest Perspective from Nepal: Interview with Tshering Pande Bhote
Posted: Jun 21, 2013 05:30 pm EDT
(By Nick Boudreau) ExplorersWeb caught up with Tshering Pande Bhote, Nepali owner and guide of Himalaya Guides in Kathmandu to get his take on a few of the big questions out of Chomolungma. A six-time Everest summiteer, Tshering was the first Nepali to earn an International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA) guide certification. He is also one of a few to earn New Zealand Mountain Guides Association (NZMGA) & Nepal National Mountain Guide Association (NNMGA) qualifications. Here is what he had to say:
ExplorersWeb: What do you see are the biggest issues facing Himalaya climbing today?
Tshering: I donít find any big issues facing Himalaya climbing today. All over the world the issues are the same. Some people have too much egoism and like to have much credit without much climbing.
ExplorersWeb: Some guides and alpinists have suggested making IFMGA or other certifications mandatory in order to guide on Everest to improve safety. Do you think this is a good idea?
Tshering: It is hard to say. Safety wise it is a good idea to at least have one IFMGA guide in a team.
ExplorersWeb: Mainstream news outlets seemed to have latched onto the notion that the Sherpa are to blame for most of the challenges on Everest (i.e. overcrowding, too many inexperienced climbers on the mountains, tensions between Sherpa and western guides/alpinists, etc). Is this true or is there more to this story?
Tshering: My point of view it is more to the story. I see the same number of climbers for the famous mountains all over the world.
ExplorersWeb: What do you think are key changes that would help prevent bottle-necking at the Hillary Step or fights between Sherpa and foreign climbers?
Tshering: I think key changes that would help prevent bottle-necking at the Hillary Step would be proper fixed ropes before the summit day, one line for ascending and one for descending. I climbed six times to the summit of Mount Everest without any problems.
All climbers have to look back a bit for old climbers where everything was at least twice as heavy, not tested and they didnít know the route. Now-a-days fixed rope is up the route, gear is light weight tested, better, warmer, at least twice as good as before. It is human nature like to have more and more creature comforts.
I donít want to talk about fights between Sherpa and foreign climbers. Only one thing I can say is mistake never can be one way.
ExplorersWeb: Finally, is fixing a permanent ladder on the Hillary Step a wise idea?
Tshering: Personally my point of view fixing a permanent ladder on the Hillary step is not wise idea. There should never be any permanent, artificial fixtures on the mountain; keep as it is. Keep nature as it is. All climbers know climbing mountain is risky, thatís why all climbers going to climb mountains accept the risk.
Instead, fix a new rope before the season and take out end of the season. The government should make clear rule and regulation to take care of it and ask it be done by one good related association or organization, which has overall knowledge all about it.
Human waste and rubbish all should be brought down. Also, every climber should pee only in one place every camp, like Alaskaís National Park mountains.
Those interested in the specific events which happened on Mount Everest should check out Reel Rock 8. One of the films features video of the confrontation which took place at Camp 2 as well as lengthy interviews with the three western climbers, a number of sherpas and also leaders and guides of the commercial teams. It adds a lot of information about what happened and why.
Do you think that Steck was totally unaware of the agreements in place not to climb while Sherpas were fixing?
I don't know but I guess that he could have been. I don't believe that the climbers outside of the commercial expeditions care that much about the commercial expeditions. Especially not when they planned to climb another route.
And you do you think that Steck did nothing more than climb to the side of the fixing party and then step over the fixed lines? That there were no prior exchanges before the fight?
Yes, because that the information that I have. I don't remember all details in this long thread but I believe that many people thinks that stepping over the fixed lines and being on the wall where enough reasons for the incident.
So, it's all Steck's fault? Did you see the same movie I saw? There was a long segment about how this conflict has been building for years and started way back in 1953 when the British got to sleep upstairs in the British Embassy in Nepal and the Sherpas had to sleep in the garage. There was also some good insights that the younger sherpas are not going to put up with the crap from the expeditions that their older counterparts have been suffering from all these past years.
I think what the movie was trying to say was that the apparent overreaction by the Sherpas was because of issues that went all the way back to the first ascent in 1953. More than once the people being interviewed used the words "the straw that broke the camel's back."
If you buy into that logic then it didn't take much for Steck or anybody else to cause a major riot. For that reason I think it is reasonable to say that Steck didn't do anything very significant. I don't think they were trying to make him blameless. I think the movie was trying to say it didn't take much to trigger something that has been brewing for a long, long time.