It appears that the ongoing drama regarding the lack of a ski permit for Matt Moniz and Willie Benegas continues. The two men found themselves in trouble with the Nepali government after climbing to Camp 3 and skiing the Lhotse Face back to Camp 2 last week. Now, their entire expedition is in jeopardy as the Department of Tourism (DoT) recommends legal action agains the climbers.
If you haven’t been keeping up with this story, the gist of it is this: Matt and Willie skied down the Lhotse Face without knowing that they needed a ski permit, which costs $1000 and requires a $500 garbage deposit. When Nepali officials got wind of their actions, they immediately began investigating the situation. According to The Himalayan Times that investigation is now complete and the DoT is recommending that the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation revoke the climbers’ permits. The duo are are set to climb both Everest and Lhotse yet this spring.
Matt and Willie have both said that they are willing to pay the fee for a ski permit but were unaware that one is needed. That could be because the Tourism Act 2035 doesn’t even mention such a document. In fact, according to Julius Seidenader (via Stefan Nestler), the regulations regarding the ski permit aren’t even available in English. Seidenader runs the Ski and Snowboarding Foundation Nepal, so he has some experience in this area.
To complicate matters further, this would normally be something that the expedition’s liaison officer would have spotted and alerted the climbers to ahead of time. But, this being Nepal, the liaison officer never even came to Base Camp. This is typical for the South Side of the mountain where teams pay a lot of money to cover the fees of these officers, but they never arrive on the scene to actually do their job. Matt and Willie’s expedition is being managed by High Altitude Dreams, a local Nepali company, but apparently they are claiming complete ignorance of the fact that the two men planned on skiing the Lhotse Face. This despite the fact that they had to carry their skis up to C3 at some point.
Now, the fate of their climb is in the hands of the Ministry. How they’ll rule is anyone’s guess at this point, but hopefully common sense will prevail. If not, they could both be heading home very soon as it now looks like the summit push on the South Side is set to begin this weekend. We’ll continue to keep an eye on this story and post updates as they are available.