Shriya Shah-Klorfine’s spirits were high as she prepared to climb to the peak of snow-covered Mount Everest.
She’d dreamt of conquering the highest mountain on Earth since she was nine years old and trained constantly for the past two years, walking and running 19 kilometres a day with 20 kilograms of weight on her back.
Everest was her mountain, after all. She grew up in its shadow in Kathmandu, Nepal, before moving to Mumbai, India, with her parents, and then to Toronto with her husband. The pair remortgaged their house to help raise about $100,000 for the expedition. They put off having children so she could take on Everest.
By Friday, she was almost there. At the final camp before the peak at 8,848 metres, the trim, dark-haired businesswoman, who once went on a 24-hour hunger strike to protest against Ontario’s high auto-insurance premiums, called several friends in the Toronto area to tell them how she was doing.
She was excited as she spoke about her plans to plant a Canadian flag atop Everest.
“She was not scared. She was not afraid of anything. She was full of joy, full of life,” friend Priya Ahuja recalled of their last conversation. “And she did it. And that’s the sad part. She did it and couldn’t come back.”
Ms. Shah-Klorfine had previously climbed smaller mountains in Nepal, but Everest was by far her biggest mountaineering challenge. The firm helping her with her expedition was Utmost Adventure Trekking Pvt. Ltd., based in Kathmandu. She had six members on her team, including five local trekking professionals.
Since Nepal ranks among the poorest countries in the world, tourism is a vital economic lifeline. Comprising about 4 percent of the country's gross national product, the industry pulls in around half a billion dollars annually ...
Mount Everest climbers have been a dependable money source ... . In climbing season alone from March to May, the population of the Khumbu region at the base of Mount Everest soars from around 40,000 to 700,000 ...
But thousands of those seasonal residents are Nepalese workers from other areas who migrate in for tourism-related employment. In fact, locals have decried recent calls for Mount Everest to be restricted due to environmental damage because so many rely on tourism to provide a majority of their annual income. For example, sherpas, or mountain guides, in particular can make upwards of $2,000 per expedition, far exceeding the average Nepalese annual income. ...
To increase Everest tourism during the colder months of the year, the Nepalese government announced in 2007 that it was trying to cut royalty fees for people interested in climbing Everest during fall and winter. If the proposed plan goes into effect, a September through November climb will be 50 percent off the regular price and one from December to February will be 75 percent lower. If you're lured into the sales price, Nepal winds up raking in off-season tourism money.
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