KATHMANDU, Nepal - Nepalese guides on Everest told AFP on Tuesday they were packing up and leaving the mountain after a meeting at which they decided to abandon this year's climbing season to honour their dead colleagues.
"We had a long meeting this afternoon and we decided to stop our climbing this year to honour our fallen brothers. All sherpas are united in this," local guide, Tulsi Gurung, told AFP from base camp.
"Some guides have already left and others will take about a week to pack up everything and go," said Gurung, whose brother is among those missing after an avalanche killed 13 sherpas and left three buried in deep snow.
Another sherpa guide, Pasang Sherpa, added: "Sixteen people have died on this mountain on the first day of our climb, how can we step on it now?" The guides had threatened to cancel all climbing on Mount Everest and issued an ultimatum to the government, demanding higher compensation, an agreement to revise insurance payments and a welfare fund by next Monday.
The decision to abandon the season appeared to pre-empt the outcome of talks which are underway in Kathmandu. High-profile Western mountaineers left base camp for the capital Tuesday afternoon to seek a resolution to the crisis.
"They have decided that compensation is not the only issue, they feel like they have to close down Everest this year as a memorial to those who died," said Ed Marzec, an American climber, who spoke to AFP from base camp.
Sherpas earn between $3,000 (S$3800) to $6,000 a season, but their insurance cover is almost always inadequate when accidents happen.
More than 300 people, most of them local guides, have died on the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) peak since the first ascent by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.