This past spring was a tumultuous one on Everest where we once again saw concerns with overcrowding and several deaths. Add into that a crazy scene involving three high-profile European climbers getting into a fight with a mob of Sherpas and you can understand why the Nepalese government would want to take steps to reign things in. That is exactly what they did last week with the announcement of new measures to improve safety, security and the environment on the world’s tallest mountain.
The biggest adjustment for climbers will be a permanent presence in Base Camp by government officials. A team of government selected staffers will be assigned to BC to provide oversight of regulations and to help coordinate any rescue operations that may need to be conducted. They’ll also help facilitate communications to and from the mountain, although their primary duty will be ensure that everyone is following the rules and conducting themselves in a proper manner. Each of the expeditions is already assigned a liaison officer, but most of them never leave Kathmandu. This new “Integrated Service Center,” as it is being called, will essentially be the eyes and ears of the Nepali government on Everest.
That isn’t the only change however as there are several other shifts in policy as well. For instance, helicopter flights to other peaks in the Khumbu region will be prohibited unless they are used for conducting a rescue. This will prevent some climbers from using that mode of transportation to hop from one mountain to another while undergoing their acclimatization process. The helicopters can make the snow on the upper slopes of Everest unstable, bringing about avalanches. By limiting the amount of helicopter traffic, the hope is that the mountain will become safer all around.
The government has also announced that all attempts to set a record on Everest must be announced prior to starting a climb. The hope is that this new rule will cut down on some of the arbitrary or outlandish “records” that people come to Everest to set. That kind of behavior has contributed to the Everest climbing season being seen as a bit of a three-ring circus at times and Nepal would like to see some dignity restored to a mountain that they view as sacred.
Finally, there will be further enforcement on the regulations regarding the removal of trash from Everest. As we all know, over the years trash has accumulated in certain areas of the mountain and it is having an adverse effect on the environment there. Teams are required to take all of their waste materials with them when the season ends, but that is not always as strictly enforced as it should be. The government has warned that there will be increased crackdowns in this area to help clean up Everest.
All in all, these are some good steps towards bringing further oversight to Everest. Whether or not they’ll make things safer remains to be seen. The Nepalese government has been criticized for not taking a more active role and this seems to be an attempt to squelch some of that criticism. They’ll now have to follow through with the enforcement, which has often been the part that they would stumble on. I guess we’ll find out more next spring.
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