The Finance Ministry has okayed the Tourism Ministry’s proposal to extend the climbing permits of hundreds of mountaineers who had been forced to abandon their expeditions last year due to avalanches on the Himalaya triggered by the April 25 earthquake. The permits will be extended for two years.
Last year, 103 teams consisting of 801 individuals had received permits to climb various peaks in the Himalaya. Among them were 357 mountaineers (18 of them Nepalis) who had obtained Everest climbing permits.
Officials of the Department of Tourism said they received the Finance Ministry’s go-ahead on Thursday. The Tourism Ministry will now send the proposal to the Cabinet for its final approval.
Gyanendra Shrestha, an official at the department, said that the mountaineers, including Everest aspirants, who had abandoned their summit bids last year had been waiting for clearance to make fresh attempts this spring. “Once the proposal is approved by the Cabinet, we expect climbers to start submitting applications to climb the peak again.” A new team of 14 members has applied to the department to climb Everest this spring season.
The world’s highest peak was closed for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015 due to deadly avalanches. On April 18, 2014, an avalanche on Everest near Everest Base Camp killed 16 Nepali guides.
Rescuers pulled out 13 bodies in the next two days, while the remaining three were never recovered as search and rescue operations were called off due to “too much risk”. Subsequently, the expedition was called off. The first post-avalanche ascent happened on May 23, 2014 when Chinese climber Wang Jing reached the summit of Everest. However, her ascent sparked controversy as she had bypassed the Khumbu Icefall by helicopter.
The government had extended the Everest climbing permits until 2019 for those climbers who were forced to abandon the mission. Nearly 334 mountaineers were issued climbing permits in 2014, and they have been allowed to return to the peak at any time until 2019.
Again in 2015, the April 25 earthquake set off avalanches killing 19 climbers, including high-altitude guides and helpers at base camp and the Khumbu Icefall. There were no Everest bids in the spring of 2015.
The Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee had then recommended to the government to extend the climbing permits of the 2015 Everest aspirants until 2016, or further into the future.
Everest’s lure as strong as ever
Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, expects that even after two years in a row of deadly disasters, the world’s highest peak will draw another large crowd this spring.
“Based on inquiries from climbers in 2014 and 2015, we expect this season will be as busy as ever,” he said. “The two deadly accidents on Everest will not slow demand.” Sherpa, however, said there were fewer inquiries from new climbers.
He added that last year’s climbers were waiting for the Nepal government’s green signal to extend their climbing permits. “Despite natural disasters that never come informed, we see intense demand for Everest,” he said.
“Climbing Everest has risks. Risks are destructive, of course, but danger and adventure is what makes your life adventurous.”
Normally, Everest aspirants apply for climbing permits between mid-March and April-end. Actual climbing starts in mid-May. The government charges $11,000 per foreign climber and earns nearly $3.5 million in revenue from Everest annually.
Source: The Kathmandu Post