My latest audiobook: The Everest Politics Show – an eyewitness account of the 2014 Everest tragedy

If you’re a follower of this blog then you will know that I’m in the slow and gradual process of recording my diaries and releasing them as audiobooks. I started in 2021 with The Chomolungma Diaries and released The Manaslu Adventure last year.

I’m happy to say that the next instalment, The Everest Politics Show, is now available on Audible, Amazon Apple Books, Spotify and will be available on other outlets very soon.

The Everest Politics Show: available now as an audiobook
The Everest Politics Show: available now as an audiobook

The release is timely. This year is the tenth anniversary of the 2014 Everest tragedy and its controversial aftermath, whose events it portrays.

I had already climbed Everest from the north side, and trekked and climbed extensively in the Khumbu region of Nepal, by the time I joined a commercial expedition to climb Lhotse in April 2014. But I had never been to Everest Base Camp on the Nepal side, climbed through the Khumbu Icefall, or got up close to features like the Western Cwm, Lhotse Face and South Col that I had read so much about.

Lhotse is another 8,000m peak that is separated from Everest by the South Col. Our team consisted of climbers who were attempting both mountains. The attempts were never made. On 18 April, during our first journey into the Icefall, we witnessed the deaths of 16 Sherpas in a huge avalanche. It led to a labour dispute. Everest Base Camp became the scene of public gatherings, conducted mainly in Nepali, that left many of us bewildered. Threats were made and rumours swept through camp. A week after the tragedy, all expeditions were cancelled and we went home.

I wrote extensively about the tragedy and its aftermath in this blog over the following months as I tried to make sense of the things I’d seen. My posts included an eyewitness account of the avalanche, an expedition trip report, a look at the role of government corruption and incompetence in the tragedy, an eyewitness account of the base camp summit meeting, a look at the role of charities and why Sherpas are not being exploited, how media sensationalism was harming the Sherpa cause and I explored ways to improve commercial mountaineering on Everest. I attended a lecture where others did the same, and two years later I even watched a movie about the season. Some of these essays appeared in my collection Sherpa Hospitality as a Cure for Frostbite, which I have also narrated and published as an audiobook. None of these posts compare with being there, and my diary comes closest to providing that experience.

It brought mixed emotions reliving the expedition as I narrated the audiobook. The trek to base camp through the Khumbu region was a joy. My diary entries are light-hearted; enjoyment and enthusiasm ooze from the pages, providing no indication of the darkness to come.

There is a naivety about the chapters that cover the aftermath of the avalanche, but that’s with good reason. It’s a diary: an eyewitness account, written in the present tense without hindsight to call upon. At the time, we were all confused about what was happening; many of us believed that we (as in clients and western operators) were the targets of Sherpa dissatisfaction. It took many months for me to realise that it was a dispute between union leaders and government and we were really just helpless bystanders in a story that had been unfolding for a long time.

From a distance of ten years, I can now see that the expedition left scars on me that have never healed. Lhotse was my fifth 8,000m peak expedition in as many years. I had previously attempted the Gasherbrums, Cho Oyu, Manaslu and Everest from the Tibet side. When the expedition started, I could see that pattern continuing for as long as I could afford it and continued to enjoy it.

It ended up being my last 8,000m peak expedition. People change and you can never say never, but as I sit at home in the Cotswolds writing these words, I can’t ever see myself returning to climb another 8,000m peak. There are several reasons for this, but the pain of 2014 provided the first nail in the coffin of my ambition.

In the ten years since, nothing has changed in terms of the regulation that commercial mountaineering on Everest so obviously needs. All of the symptoms that led to tragedy and farce in 2014 remain in place. There is a high chance something very similar will happen again.

Four of the five years with the most deaths on Everest have happened since 2014. Last year there were 17 deaths as the Nepali government issued a record 478 Everest permits to 47 teams. Corruption remains a force in Kathmandu; the millions of dollars in permit fees and liaison officer fees remain there, without filtering through to the mountain communities who provide the bulk of the labour.

Meanwhile, peak bagging on the 8,000ers is becoming more popular every year. Back when I was doing it, most of us were happy with climbing one or two, and the majority were considered too dangerous for commercial expeditions. Climbing all fourteen was in the realm of elite mountaineers, who completed them gradually over the course of their careers. Only 31 people had completed them by the 2014 season, and far more people had died trying. Nowadays, there is a handful of Nepali operators who are willing to run expeditions to all of the 8,000ers, including suicidal ones like K2 and Annapurna. And there are commercial clients with ambitions to climb them all in the shortest possible time. A further 20 climbers have completed the list and the fatalities continue.

Just as importantly (for me, anyway), while the media remain fascinated by Everest, the voice of the commercial client is still largely forgotten. There is sure to be media interest in the 2014 Everest tragedy this year; I wonder if our voices will be heard. Ours is an important perspective, vital to any understanding of commercial mountaineering. I would say this of course, but far too few people have read my book Seven Steps from Snowdon to Everest, about gradually gaining the experience needed for Everest by climbing a feast of amazing mountains across the world and loving every minute of it.

My journey to produce audiobooks, also started with Seven Steps from Snowdon to Everest, when I hired professional actor Philip Battley to provide the voices. I will never be as good as he is, but there is a certain authenticity to hearing a true story narrated by one of its witnesses. If the story intrigues you, then you can find out more by clicking on the big green button.

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2 thoughts on “My latest audiobook: The Everest Politics Show – an eyewitness account of the 2014 Everest tragedy

  • February 7, 2024 at 6:14 pm

    Just bought this on Audible, and looking forward to listening to it. I remember reading your posts about the tragedy and its aftermath back in 2014 as it happened; I was glad to get a perspective on those terrible events from someone close at hand who I knew was a bit sensible.

  • February 7, 2024 at 7:27 pm

    Thanks, Rae, that’s very kind of you. I’ve been called many things; sensible is one of the nicer ones.

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