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Nepal’s Mountaineering Association is lobbying their government to impose stricter rules for those wanting to scale Everest, after 11 climbers—including four Indians—succumbed on their way to the peak. Santa Bir Lama, the Association’s President, blames the deaths on a surge of inexperienced visitors.
Kathmandu formerly enforced a ‘one-route one-team’ rule for climbers. However, after the restriction was lifted in 1993, congestion during good weather has become a mainstay—sample the viral image of a ‘traffic jam’ near the summit. Chilean mountaineer Juan Pablo Mohr told news agency AFP that recent climbers were unaware of basics like using the fixed ropes, or attaching crampons (a footwear traction device) on the icy surface. "People who know nothing of climbing, never been on a mountain, came and tried to climb Everest.” Phurba Tenjing Sherpa, a veteran guide, added that another climber was a woman in her fifties; the lady was vastly under-prepared, with no prior experience. But since the fees had been paid, she insisted on the seeing the summit. Tenjing feels that this stubborn, forceful nature is the most harmful.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned mountaineer, Nepal has continually issued permits to anyone who pays the $11,000 (Rs. 7,62,960) climbing fee. But despite this unhealthy pattern, the government says they want change.
"We are looking into having a minimum requirement for climbers,” said Mohan Krishna Sapkota, Secretary at Nepal's Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation, alongside “fixing more ropes or taking more oxygen and sherpas.” For veteran climbers, though, this is a redundant annual exercise veiled as concern. In a bid to increase safety, Kathmandu had announced in 2014 that it would double the fixed ropes near the summit, and station soldiers and police at Everest base camp. Neither happened.
This indifference, coupled with the increase in cheaper operators, and bad weather that cuts summit days, is creating deadly bottlenecks.
Tibet, understandably, has a 300 climber cap to combat these issues. Kathmandu, though, is yet to put realistic elbow grease into climbing regulations: the Himalayan nation earned nearly $4 million (approx. 27.7 crores) from issuing permits this year. With the eagerness to secure even a slice of this income, many are worried that the rush may undercut Everest’s stature as a timeless attraction in Nepal.
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