As the fall climbing season continues to ramp up in Nepal and Tibet, a disturbing story has come out of Kathmandu. Apparently, the Nepali government has banned several helicopter companies from flying in the Manaslu region, preventing them from delivering supplies to Base Camp, where more than 250 foreign climbers are now running low on food, clothing, and other gear.
According to The Himalayan Times, officials from the Nepali Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation barred helicopter operators Heli Everest, Manang Air and Air Dynasty from flying in the Manaslu region, and as a result the gear, food, and other supplies that belong to the mountaineering teams operating on Manaslu this season are stuck in the town of Arughat. That village serves as a staging ground for expedition logistics in the area, where helicopters have delivered supplies to Base Camp for years.
The situation has apparently gotten so severe that several of the teams have now run out of food and climbers have been wearing the same clothes for a week now. Expedition operators tell The Times that much of the food that they had purchased for the team has already started to rot while it waits for transportation to BC. They also indicate that things have already reached crisis level and that if something isn’t done soon, there could be serious problems for the teams, who can’t begin their rotations up the mountain until their gear arrives.
In addition to facing long delays when seeking permission to fly, the helicopter operators who are working in the area report that short weather windows is deepening the crisis. They may be told by officials in Kathmandu that they can make a supply run to BC, only to find that the fast changing weather has grounded their aircraft. This is taking an already bad situation and making it worse, as foreign climbers sit and wait not only for their personal gear to reach Base Camp, but also the food that will sustain them throughout the expedition.
Ministry officials say they are working to resolve the issues that are preventing the helicopter operators from flying as quickly as possible. In the meantime, they have a serious public relations fiasco on their hands. The country is gearing up for its “Year of Tourism” in 2020, and yet it continues to have these kinds of troubling issues when dealing with visitors. It is also extremely frustrating for the mountaineering companies, many of which have been operating in Nepal for years. Hopefully they’ll get this resolved soon, as I know I wouldn’t want to be stranded in the Himalaya without food and all of my gear for very long.
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