Mount Everest climbing season faces uncertainty of Himalayan proportions

International expedition operators have started cancelling Mt Everest expeditions for upcoming climbing season, as the government has delayed its decision to extend by five years the individual permits for all the climbers who cancelled their bid in the last spring.

Peak Freaks, the Canadian mountaineering outfitter that handled 49 international expeditions on Nepal’s Himalayas in the last 23 years, today announced cancellation of all commercial Everest expeditions for 2015 to 2016, citing the government’s fickle posturing and vague statements regarding possible rule changes for mountaineering permits.

“Last year’s tragic events highlighted both the need for better safety regulations and a reassessment of the business which climbing Everest has become. But our present concerns and consequent conclusions come from a much larger set of worrying circumstances,” Tim Rippel, owner of the company, said in a statement.

According to him, the growing list of socio-political events that have a cumulative effect of compromising regional security, as well as the drastic alterations to the weather, present his company with only one responsible and rational course of action – the cancellation.

Damber Parajuli, president of the Expedition Operators’ Association of Nepal, said the government’s indecisiveness and lack of seriousness on part of the Ministry Of Tourism and Civil Aviation caused the cancellation. “Not only Peak Freaks, more than a dozen international expedition operators repeatedly warned of switching to Tibet for Everest summit, as the government failed to respond to their concerns on time,” he said.

Prof John All of Western Kentucky University, who abandoned Lhotse climbing last year, said things were too uncertain this year. “We have decided not to return before 2016,” he told this daily.

“All are in a state of confusion whether to start preliminary bookings for the next spring, as the government remains unresponsive to their concerns on permit extension,” Navin Trital, Managing Director, Himalaya Expedition, whose company works with US-based guiding company Altitude Junkies, said.Even though they had major political problems in 2014 with the Everest season and a total lack of respect towards expedition operators from the ministry, some of the international operators are still awaiting government’s decision to continue with their plan to send expedition from the southern side, Chairman of the Nepal Mountaineering Association Ang Tshering Sherpa said.

“With less than 90 days remaining to start climbing, it’s the government’s responsibility to clear the confusion at the earliest, letting all foreign climbers prepare for the spring summit,” he said.

Joint Secretary Umakant Parajuli, who handles the tourism industry division at the ministry, said the file forwarded nearly a month ago by the Department of Tourism was being reviewed. DoT’s Director General Tulsi Gautam also said the ball was now in the ministry’s court. “DoT has recommended extension of individual permits by five years after amending existing regulation,” he reiterated.

Spring season stats

• Individual permit fee to scale Mt Everest: $11,000

• Eight icefall doctors to start warming up from Jan 16 at Khumjung climbing school

• Contact office with security personnel to be set up at Everest base camp in April

• Eight kilograms garbage rule to continue for each returning climber

• Climbing Sherpas to receive life insurance premium of Rs 15 lakh

Operators awaiting govt response

• Himalayan Experience

• Himalayan Guides Ice 8000

• Peak Freaks

• Jagged Globe

• Adventure Consultants

• Alpine Ascents International

• Exploradus, Benegas Brothers

• International Mountain Guides

• Rainier Mountaineering

• Altitude Junkies

Source: THT