The government is considering making it compulsory for mountaineers attempting to climb Everest and other peaks above 8,000 m to take along a high-altitude local guide or support staff to ensure their safety.
The proposal will be tabled at the joint meeting of the Himalaya host countries Nepal, India, China and Pakistan scheduled to be held on April 18 in Kathmandu.
“The objective of the rule is to ensure climbers’ safety in addition to increasing employment,” said Madhu Sudan Burlakoti, chief of the industry division of the Tourism Ministry.
As per the proposal that will be floated jointly by the ministry and the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), climbing expeditions will have to hire two local guides for every two mountaineers for peaks above 8,000 m, and one local guide for every three climbers for peaks above 7,000m. Expeditions will be required to hire one local guide for peaks below 7,000 m. “The meeting will also discuss common topics like climbing rules and regulations, procedures including proper management of cross-border Himalayas and environment issues,” said Ang Tshiring Sherpa, president of the NMA.
As a number of mountaineers have been reported to have been struck by high altitude sickness due to lack of proper knowledge, the government and the NMA is considering the idea of assigning one staffer to each climber, said Sherpa.
Local guides are well aware of the geography and strong enough to handle risks in high altitude zones, he added. “In addition, the mandatory provision of hiring a guide for each climber will also generate more jobs.”
Last year, 678 climbers obtained climbing permits for Everest, and among them, 567 succeeded in reaching the top of the world’s highest peak, according to the Tourism Ministry. There were 334 mountaineering guides including a few Nepali climbers. The government earned US$ 3.16 million in Everest royalties last year.
In 2012, there were 408 successful climbers, among them 227 guides. According to the stats, 4,411 people have climbed Everest since the first ascent in 1953. Nearly 250 have died on its slopes.
The ministry has taken a number of initiatives to ensure the safety of climbers. It plans to set up a temporary station at the base camp located at 5,300 m throughout the spring climbing season that will monitor climbers and coordinate with expedition leaders. “It’s like a check post. Every climber has to clear the post before they set out for Everest. And on their return, they have to hand over 8 kg of trash to the post to get back their US$ 4,000 garbage deposit,” said Burlakoti, adding that it would also enable the ministry to obtain accurate statistics on how many people climbed the peak on a particular day.
Meanwhile, from this season, climbers aspiring to set records have to inform the ministry prior to their departure for the summit. The ministry has also slashed the Everest climbing fee from US$ 25,000 per person to US$ 11,000 per person which will come into effect from Jan 1, 2015.
The ministry is also discussing leasing out Nepal’s unclimbed peaks to private companies which will manage them and collect fees from mountaineers. The government estimates that there are more than 1,600 virgin summits in the Nepal Himalaya. As of now, 310 peaks (revised from 326) are opened for commercial climbing.