Nepal Prepares for 2014 Climbing Season
More than 4,000 climbers have ascended Mount Everest since Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay famously climbed to the peak in 1953. Conservationists have expressed concern that the increased number of people attempting to climb the iconic mountain may result in damage. Nevertheless, Nepal’s tourism authority has decided to cut climbing fees for some Himalayan peaks, including Mount Everest, in an effort to attract more mountaineers. So, from next year license fees for individual will be cut to less than half. On the other hand, group fees will increase in an effort to discourage large groups from climbing together. It has been found that groups often include climbers of very different abilities, which has led to problems as less experienced climbers are pushed beyond their abilities.
With Mount Everest being a vital source of income for Nepal, it is no wonder that communities want to cash in on increased numbers of climbers. But the increased pressure on infrastructure and resources may lead to the trip of a lifetime becoming a huge disappointment. Overcrowding during the peak climbing months of March to May has resulted in climbers having to queue for their turn to attempt to conquer the 8,850 meter peak. Also, huge mounds of garbage are piling up along the trail, despite the appeal to climbers to carry their rubbish back down the mountain. Some climbers even discard their climbing gear and oxygen cylinders on the mountain side rather than make the effort to take it back down with them.
Experienced international climbers, including the likes of Italian climbing expert Reinhold Messner, have appealed to Nepal to close access to Everest for a few seasons, to allow it to recover. But, with the country collecting more than $3.3 million in climbing fees each year, and thousands of hotel owners, porters and trekking guides relying on climbers for their livelihoods, it is very unlikely that this will happen. However, authorities will be doing all they can to ensure that climbers will be held responsible for removing their garbage, climbing gear and oxygen cylinders from the environment when they leave. The Nepali documentary film 26,000 ft into the Death Zone provides insight into the extent that Mount Everest is being polluted by visitors.
As Nepal gears up for the 2014 climbing season, authorities have announced that there will be a team of Nepali army and police personnel, along with other government officials, at Mount Everest base camp to ensure the safety of climbers. This new arrangement will overcome the problem previously encountered by climbing teams, where the government employee assigned to the team as a liaison officer did not accompany them all the way to the base camp, located at 5350m. In future all liaison officers will have to report to the office at the base camp. Authorities hope that the enforcement of climbing rules, cleaning of the mountain and the rescue of climbers in distress should all benefit from the arrangement.
Visitors to Nepal should also note that, while competitive climbing is discouraged, if climbers plan to attempt to set records, they need to inform the tourism ministry ahead of the time. Failing to do so could make their record invalid.