For #Nepal, the lure of Everest has been a core attraction to tourists visiting the country. Although Everest climbers make up a very small proportion of tourists to Nepal, they are by far the most lucrative element of the country’s tourist industry. But climbing Everest ranks as one of the most extreme risks in global tourism. No mountain climbing (outside the Himalayas) can fully prepare people for the dangers they face when they exceed 26,000ft. Altitude sickness, exposure, the risk of ice falls and avalanches, and unexpected crevasses are just some of the risks climbers and their Sherpa guides and porters need to overcome. The slopes of Everest are littered with the frozen bodies of those who perished while ascending or descending.
Since the first recorded summiting in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, more than 280 climbers have perished on Everest. In May this year, six climbers, including Australian academic Dr Maria Strydom, died during a climb.
A number of Nepalese based adventure tour operators have expressed serious concern about the sheer number of people who are permitted to climb Everest. In September last year, Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism announced proposals to regulate climbing of Mt. Everest. The rules proposed were:
- Climbers must be aged between 18-75
- Permits would be given only to those who can prove that they have already scaled mountains higher than 21, 300ft
- Disabled and visually-impaired applicants could undertake the climb only if they were able to do so on their own
To date, none of these proposals have been implemented. As things stand, the lure of the tourist dollar seems to dominate the need to enhance the safety of climbing Everest both for climbers and their Sherpa guides and porters. As part of Nepal’s post-earthquake tourism recovery, improving Nepal’s reputation for responsible and sustainable tourism by establishing a set of meaningful and enforced regulations for Everest ascents should be introduced as a matter of urgency.
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