Govt planning orientation classes for Mt Everest climbers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKATHMANDU: Come this spring those planning to climb Mt Everest will be first asked to take part in an intensive pre-orientation programme designed by government authorities.The move is aimed at averting any untoward situation during the climbing period.

The Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation has already decided to set up an integrated liaison office, with a few security personnel, at Mt Everest base camp by March-end. Officials at the ministry’s mountaineering department said there will be special intensive briefing for the climbers and their guides to maintain peace and harmony in the region.

Tilak Ram Pandey of the Department of Mountaineering at MoTCA said that there will be a special pre-orientation programme for the climbers and their helpers to alert them on ‘dos and don’ts’ to maintain peace in the region. “The orientation programme is aimed at averting any untoward situation,” he said.

The move follows an incident last season when Ueli Steck of Switzerland and Simone Moro of Italy had a fight with a group of Sherpas over fixing of the ropes on the climbing route.

In an email, renowned alpinist Simone said: “What happened to me was just an extraordinary incident, but I say Sherpas are quite friendly. The case was settled peacefully. (So) to have police at the base camp could solve some problems there; but not at higher camps. I’m worried that police at the base camp will mean just to have some persons more in that ‘village’, but (it will not be) a real help.”

Special orientation programme for the climbers, placement of security personnel and installation of GPS facilities in Khumbu region are few measures being adopted there after last year’s fracas between climbers and Sherpas, according to Pandey.

“The liaison office will closely monitor day-to-day climbing activities,” said Pandey. “The ministry has already asked for three security personnel each from the Nepali Army, the Nepal Police and the Armed Police Force for their deployment at the base camp,” he said, adding that a new team will be placed there by March-end.

The ministry has also decided to revise permit fees for Nepali and foreign climbers.

According to Pandey, new permit fees have been already applied for Nepali climbers while the reduced fees for foreigners will come into effect from January next year.
Pandey refuted claims by some veteran Himalayan guides who say reduction in climbing fees (more than 50 per cent) will add to further crowding on the mountains.

“Reduction (in fees) is aimed at achieving responsible tourism,” Pandey said, adding that it will not have any adverse effect on the health of Everest.

Ang Tsering Sherpa, President of Nepal Mountaineering Association, hailed the initiative taken by government authorities. “Criticism by a few foreign climbers and companies on revised fee structure is not justified,” he said, accusing them of being unaware about the carrying capacity of Mt Everest. “It is just to make Everest expeditions somewhat more affordable, thereby making the journey available to more climbers,” Sherpa said.

Pandey said that the ministry was also seeking the nod from the Cabinet to open 104 more peaks for climbing. As the country’s mountaineering revenue covers more than four per cent of GDP (nearly $3 million a year from Everest climbing alone), there will be 414 peaks for

adventure tourism after new openings. Pandey believes that will set the mountaineering world further abuzz.

Source: The Himalayan Times

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