Last week I posted a story that came out of Nepal indicating that evacuation coverage provider Global Rescue was refusing to pay the bill on several rescues that had taken place on Everest during the 2017 spring climbing season. The gist of that story, which started with an article from The Himalayan Times, is that the climbers who were evacuated from the mountain weren’t airlifted using GR approved helicopter operators, thus the company wasn’t going to pay the bills. Yesterday, I heard from Global Rescue directly and got clarification on their side of the story.
Firstly, the company spokesman that I heard from wanted to reiterate that GR is not an insurance company, thus they are not obligated to pay these bills in the same way that an insurance provider would. They offer evacuation coverage, but only when working with operators that they have already vetted and given approval to, otherwise the helicopter companies are not authorized to be reimbursed for their expenses.
In the original article, I mentioned that waiting for Global Rescue approval could take time, which isn’t always available in a life or death situation on the mountain. But, it was pointed out to me that all of the other operators on Everest –– and other big peaks –– do this without any problems. In fact, all of the rescues that GR has refused to pay are with one company –– Seven Summit Treks. There have reportedly been no issues with any of the multitude of other guide services that lead teams to Everest. According to GR, the company covers more than 100 expeditions per year in the Himalaya and juggles dozens of rescues, with the vast majority going off without any problems.
When I originally wrote about this, I also erroneously said that because a Pakistani climber was left with a $40,000+ bill, Global Rescue might not be allowed to continue operating in Pakistan. But, according to the GR spokesperson, that ban may actually come down on Seven Summit Treks, which leads expeditions to K2, Broad Peak, and other mountains located in that country. It seems, that it is the guide service itself that is in hot water with the Pakistani government.
Seven Summit Treks has been one of the leading guide services on Everest in recent years, bringing dozens of customers each spring. But, there have also been some questionable reports surrounding the operator as well. In addition to this story, which now comes across as if the company simply doesn’t want to work within the boundaries of Global Rescues policies, there was the headlines from a few weeks back about Seven Summit Treks issuing fake climbing permits for Everest as well.
It is unclear at this time why Seven Summit Treks refuses to use approved helicopter operators that Global Rescue already works with. In the original story that I wrote last week, I warned readers to be sure to read the fine print on their coverage documents before traveling to the Himalaya, or anywhere else for that matter. Now, I’d recommend a similar warning when traveling with the Seven Summit team. They may have grown into one of the biggest operators on Everest, but controversy seems to be left in their wake.
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