Sticking with news from the Himalaya this morning, we have a follow-up story on the article I posted a couple of weeks back about American Sean Burch who claims to have summited 31 unclimbed peaks in just 21 days. That alone would be an impressive feat of course, but unfortunately Burch didn’t have the proper permits to climb any mountains in Nepal, and according to The Himalayan Times, he now faces charges from the tourism department there.
The incident has been under investigation by Nepali officials for the past few weeks, and apparently they have decided to move ahead with initiating legal action against the climber. A letter was sent to both the Minister of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation (Shankar Prasad Adhikari) and the head of the Department of Tourism (Jaya Narayan Acharya) advising them that Burch was in violation of the law, despite the American claiming that he had received permission from the Department of Immigration, which doesn’t have the authority to grant that permission or issue climbing permits.
It does seem that officials are recognizing Burch’s claims of making first ascents on 31 unclimbed mountains in 21 days, which would be a world record. But, since he did so without proper authorization, and entered restricted areas along the way, it appears he’ll face substantial fines and mostly likely a ban on climbing in Nepal. That ban could be for up to 10 years, while the fines would normally go on a peak by peak basis.
For his part, Burch has already left Nepal and returned home to the U.S., which complicates matters in enforcing the rules. He did send out a tweet on November 30 thanking the DoT for recognizing his achievement, but he still finds himself in hot water moving forward. His fines could equal the cost of a climbing permit on Everest – the most expensive that Nepal charges – which is currently at $11,000. In theory, he could be charged that for each individual mountain that he did not have a permit for, although it is unclear just how much he could be fined.
Personally, I think Nepal needs to make an example of these kinds of actions to ensure they don’t happen in the future. The country banned the Indian couple who faked their Everest summit for 10 years, and to me what Burch has done is worse. It appears that he has climbed 31 mountains illegally, and to me that should be worth 31 individual sentences. That means $11,000 per summit and a 10 year ban for each too. Too harsh? I’m not sure, but there should be zero tolerance for mountaineers that circumvent the laws.
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