Nepal Considers Stricter Rules for Climbing Everest

Public Domain. – Climbers on Everest

An advisory panel says only experienced climbers should be allowed.

When 11 people died climbing Mount Everest earlier this year, the Nepalese government refused to admit that overcrowding was a factor. The weather, equipment failures, and inadequate supplemental oxygen were blamed by Mohan Krishna Sapkota, secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation. In an interview with the Associated Press in May, he insisted "it is not because of the traffic jam that there were casualties" and that people should continue to come "for both pleasure and fame."

Nepal now appears to be reconsidering its approach. After the government handed out a record 381 permits for the 2019 climbing season, an advisory panel has recommended implementing tighter regulations by the time next year's climbing season rolls around.

Whereas climbers in the past only had to show a doctor's note assuring physical fitness (but not stamina at high altitudes), some biographical information, and a passport copy, they would now have to show proof of already climbing a peak at least 6,500 meters (21,325 feet) tall and that they paid at least US$35,000 for the privilege of climbing Everest. (The fee would increase to $20,000 for other mountains greater than 8,000 meters/26,246 feet.)

The goal is to raise the bar for entry and weed out inexperienced climbers, who jeopardize the safety of everyone on the mountain. This is especially true in the 'death zone,' the final 50-meter push on Everest from Camp Four to the peak, when climbers have just a few hours to avoid their lungs filling with liquid. The Associated Press reported,

"'Every minute counts there,' said Eric Murphy, a mountain guide from Bellingham, Washington, who climbed Everest for a third time on May 23. He said what should have taken 12 hours took 17 hours because of struggling climbers who were clearly exhausted but had no one to guide or help them."

The backlog this season was worsened by poor weather, which delayed climbers and led to a rush to scale the peak when the weather finally improved. China's closure of the north side to clear it of trash and empty oxygen canisters also pushed more climbers into Nepal.

It remains to be seen if the Nepalese government adopts the recommendations, but it's clear something needs to change or else we'll continue to hear reports of high death tolls each spring.