Most of the Nepalese Sherpa mountain guides have decided to leave Mount Everest for the rest of the climbing season, which was set to run through May, leaving mountaineers at base camp uncertain about what will happen next.
Their action comes in the wake of the deadly avalanche Friday that killed 16 Sherpas as they were trying to fix ropes and crack snow and ice to carve out a route for foreign climbers.
Earlier Tuesday, Nepal's government appeared to agree to some of the Sherpas' demands in the threatened boycott, such as setting up a relief fund for those who are killed or injured in climbing accidents. But the funding falls far short of the Sherpas' demands.
After the avalanche, the government said it would pay the families of each Sherpa who died about $415. The Sherpas said they deserve far more, demanding more insurance money, more financial aid for the victims' families and new regulations that would ensure climbers' rights.
Thousands of Nepalese guides and porters make their livelihoods during the climbing season, when climbers rely on them for everything from carrying gear and cooking food to high-altitude guiding. Without them, reaching the 8,850-meter peak would be almost impossible.
More than 4,000 climbers have scaled Mount Everest since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay completed the first ascent in 1953. Nearly 250 people have died trying.