Ukrainian ICO Publicity Stunt on Mount Everest Results in Death of Sherpa

A publicity stunt for the upcoming Initial Coin Offering (ICO) of Ukrainian social network ASKfm led to the death of one person last week, the Financial Times’ Alphaville reports Friday, May 25.

According to FT, ASKfm sponsored “crypto enthusiasts” Taras Pozdnii, Roman Gorodechnii, and Dmitrii Semenko to climb Mount Everest and place a Ledger wallet holding 500,000 in ASKfm tokens at the peak, with a second wallet with an equal amount of tokens to be offered in a contest.

A Youtube promotional video for the stunt asked its viewers to “get ready for the highest token. Literally,” offering the wallet at the top of Everest to anyone “brave enough” to get it. According to a spokesperson for ASKfm, the tokens at the top of Everest are worth $50,000, a sum calculated by an “estimate of their value once the pre-sale and ICO launch.”

The FT confirmed with Everest blogger Alan Arnette’s report of the weekend that a Ukrainian team had summited Everest, but the blog noted that one of the accompanying sherpas, Lam Babu Sherpa, had died during the descent.  

Lam Babu Sherpa’s death is reported on Russian media site 4Sport.ua as occurring due to either snow blindness or physical exhaustion, the snow blindness confirmed by a representative of Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism, according to FT. Another 4Sport.ua post by the Ukrainian team described the death in the following manner:

“In a second - animal fear, and I shout to Dima - let’s get out of here, or these will be the last pictures we’ll ever take. At this time there were three of our sherpa at the top, we saw Dima’s sherpa and as it turned out, he did not return to the camp :((((“

Arnette writes in his blog post that the death of Lam Babu Sherpa is a “very confusing case:”

“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 Ukrainian climbers, Taras Pozdnii, told the FT that he didn’t know what happened to the sherpa was “coming behind so we didn’t see him.”

Max Tsaryk, CEO of ASKfm, told the FT that, “we have become aware that a Sherpa who successfully assisted one of our sponsored climbers on a part of their journey, prior to assisting other non related groups of climbers, later became missing:”

“The last official update we received was that the condition and location of the missing Sherpa was unknown and it was not our place to make public statements which could’ve resulted in false information being circulated.”

The FT notes that news of the sherpa’s death has been published online in both Ukrainian and English, with one of the climbers having also confirmed the death with FT.

In mid-April, a German-based startup pulled a publicity stunt that went over poorly wherein its founder pretended to have absconded with a reported $50 mln of investors’ money, only to post a Youtube video the next day explaining that it was a tactic designed to advocate for “high ICO standards.”