A Sherpa climbing guide died during an ascent of Mt. Everest designed to promote the ASKfm social network and its new cryptocurrency.
Three Ukrainian climbers and two Himalayan Sherpa guides ascended Mt. Everest on May 14 to deposit a pair of cryptocurrency ledgers each worth $50,000, to promote ASKfm’s entry into the cryptocurrency market with its ASKTokens.
ASKfm, registered in Ireland but based in Latvia and Ukraine, designed a promotional event where it billed its new virtual money as being “at the top of the world,” saying “If you’re brave enough, go get them.”
The five climbers were supposed to bury the two electronic wallets (small, weather-sealed hard drives) on the summit of Everest. Instead, they left only one of the wallets—and they left behind Lam Babu Sherpa, who is presumed dead.
‘Every Man for Himself’
The three Ukrainian climbers—Taras Pozdnii, Dmitry Semerenko, and Roman Gorodetskiy—hired the two Sherpas, Lam Babu and Mingma Sherpa, to carry their gear—a job which supports most Sherpa households at a subsistence level, but is also the only job around.
According to Alan Arnette of Outside Online, the five reached the summit but the weather turned foul and the three Ukrainians left their Sherpas behind.
“The death zone starts at 8,300-meters,” Dmitry Semerenko said. “It’s Every man for himself zone.”
In a statement to Outside, Dmitry Semerenko was critical of the Sherpas, whom he hired through Seven Summits Treks, a budget guide service.
“We could tell by the look [of] them that they were inexperienced, and had to clarify if they [had] ever been to Everest before,” Semerenko wrote. “They barely understood English and basically were porter Sherpas.”
Both Sherpas had indeed reached the summit of Everest before. Lam, 45, had been to the top three times and had also summitted three other 8,000-meter Himalayan peaks—Cho Oyu, Manaslu and Annapurna— all in the Himalaya, according to RockandIce.com.
Ukrainian climber Taras Podznii told Financial Times, “At the top of Everest the weather was very bad, and then we were coming down.”
“We were going down to Camp 4, which is at about 7900 meters, and one Sherpa was dying. That’s all we know.”
“He [the Sherpa] was behind us so we don’t know what happened to him,” Podznii continued. “We were going fast and the Sherpa wasn’t coming with us. He was coming behind so we didn’t see him.”
Financial Times reports that Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism had heard that Lam Babu Sherpa had been stricken with “snow blindness,” a painful but temporary loss of vision caused by intense UV reflections off the snow.
Outside’s Alan Arnette, himself a veteran climber, posted, “I find it hard to understand how the 45 year-old Sherpa developed snow blindness, was reported to be staggering and no one was able to help him. I look forward to obtaining more details on this sad event.”
One of the climbers, Roman Gorodechny, wrote a report in 4sport.ua in which he says that because of the wind and the blowing snow, visibility was about one yard—not the conditions under which one would suffer snow-blindness.
Apparently, when the Ukrainian climbers reached Camp 4, they were not aware that one of their party was missing. A rescue team was on stand-by in Camp 2, a couple of thousand feet below, but was not notified until the next morning.
Climbers climb mountains for any number of reasons. Sherpas carry climbers’ gear to make money for their families. The Ukrainian teams were all experienced alpinists—if they hadn’t been climbing Everest they’d have been climbing another mountain.
The Sherpas would have hired on with any outfit offering to pay their wages—if not the ASKfm group, then another.
Still—the whole and sole point of the climb was publicity. The bitcoin wallets are potentially entirely worthless. ASKfm has not yet made its Initial Coin offering (ICO) so its tokens have zero market value at this time.
The Ukrainians got some benefit—they got a company to sponsor their travel and their ascent of Everest.
Lam Babu Sherpa might have earned $5,000 in a year of assisting rich adventurers achieve their dreams of climbing Everest. That is a lot on a country where the average annual income is $700.
And the government will pay Lam’s family about $400 as a death benefit once he is declared legally dead, according to The Economist.
In its press releases, ASKfm took no responsibility for Lam’s death. “There is no doubt that climbing Everest is challenging and dangerous,” they said in a May 26 statement.
In a statement released on May 29, the company ignores the fact that the three climbers abandoned their Sherpas, but makes a big deal about the fact that the climbers came across an injured Chinese climber as they descended, and then helped this Chinese climber get back to camp safely.
Lam Babu Sherpa disappeared on May 14. On May 15, when a search team finally went looking for him, a helicopter was brought in to evacuate the Ukrainian climbers.
“After reaching camp 2, the mountaineers contacted an air rescue team and were evacuated the next morning due to health concerns. Their condition is now stable,” the statement reads.
The Ukrainian climbers are safe, and ASKfm gets to challenge people to climb Everest to find the bitcoin wallet.
Nothing on the ASKfm website mentions that going after those coins might be fatal.