The government is set to extend individual permits for all climbers who had abandoned their expeditions to Mt Everest, Mt Lhotse and Mt Nuptse last spring by five years.
However, national and international operators said that they were struggling hard to continue with the expeditions from the Nepali side as the government had failed to decide on time.
“It is really tough to manage expeditions amid confusion over permit issues,” they said. US-based High Adventure Expeditions and Peak Freaks of Canada have already cancelled their 2015 Everest Expedition citing continued government vacillation, while Alpenglow Expeditions in the US and German operator Amical Alpin said they had moved their operations to the north side with increasing stability in Tibet.
“The fourth amendment of the mountaineering regulation will be endorsed by the Cabinet meeting next week, allowing 442 climbers to utilise their individual permits till 2019 from the same company that they had obtained the permits from,” a high-level official at the Department of Tourism said. The amendment proposal has already been registered at the Office of the Prime Minister after the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs allowed the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation to amend the existing mountaineering regulation, MoCTCA sources added.
After the Cabinet endorsement, each of the 325 Everest climbers who gave up their bid last year after an avalanche struck the icy slope near Camp I killing 16 mountaineering support staff, must come through the same Nepali company that they were associated with last year. The climbers will have to pay additional $1,000 for Mt Everest to DoT to comply with the revised royalty structure of $11,000 per person to utilise their permits. Climbers attempting Mt Lhotse (88) and Mt Nuptse (47) also need to pay more for this season.
“Providing climbers with GPS and weather forecasting equipment and updates or placing a police camp at the base camp this spring, among others, are just populist statements,” mountaineering experts alleged.
DoT sources also confirmed that there would only be a temporary contact office near the base camp where a few DoT officials will work as liaison officers. “This season will go as in the past as no other specific plans are afoot as claimed earlier,” an official said.
Apart from a health camp run by the Himalaya Rescue Association, Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee will look after issues related to garbage and icefall route this year as well.
Ang Kami Sherpa who led a team of eight icefall doctors today said that they had already reached the base camp with equipment to fix ropes and ladders up to the mountain. “We will spend at least 45 days there to facilitate climbers,” he said, adding that climbers would start acclimatising in the Khumbu region from the first week of April.
The government was only formalising a year-old announcement after the new climbing season commenced. Adventure Consultants of New Zealand, Himalayan Experience from Europe, Alpine Ascents from the US, Altitude Junkies, Benegas Brothers, Madison Mountaineering, Jagged Globe, and Summit Climb, among others, decided to operate from the Nepal side.
“One of the major events on Everest this spring will be the Catalan mountain runner Kilian Jornet’s attempt at a speed record; while 76-year old European climber Carlos Soria will be attempting a double-header (Annapurna and Dhaulagiri),” operators told this daily.
“More climbers have already chosen to attempt from the Tibet side as confusion over permit has lingered for 11 months,” according to Jeeban Ghimire, whose company Shangri-La Nepal Treks had handled 35 Everest climbers last spring. Only four members of last year’s expedition including Melissa Arnot of The Jupiter Fund will return for the South summit through his company, while six others have already decided to climb from the Tibet side, he added.
Though International Mountain Guides has only applied for permits for a 15-member expedition at DoT till date, the government had collected more than Rs 300 million in royalty from Everest last year. Operators hoped that there would be at least 30 expeditions this season after the government announcement.
Navin Trital, Managing Director at the Expedition Himalaya Treks said it would run at least two expeditions to Mt Everest and Lhotse. Seven Summit Treks also hoped to have at least four groups, while Himalayan Guides Nepal Treks expects three groups. Cosmo Treks, Rolwaling Treks and Beyul Adventures hope to handle at least one group each.