This past fall the news broke that China was issuing strict new climbing rules for Everest in an effort to improve safety and overall conditions on the mountain. Since then, not a whole lot has been heard, as some of the new regulations were said to be under review and discussion. Now, with just six weeks to go before the start of the spring climbing season, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of what to expect moving forward, and the news is both good and bad.
Alan Arnette has broken down the new rules in a blog post after getting his hands on a copy of the regulations as they’ve been spelled out by the Chinese government. According to Alan, those rules are as follows with the emphasis provided by him:
- “Strict standards will be established for all the expedition organizers or operators, especially on market access. We will cooperate actively with the Expedition companies with good social reputation, strong ability of team formation, logistic support, reliable service quality, excellent professional quality, and law-abiding.”
- “Expeditions climbing above 8000 meters in Tibet Autonomous Region, 1 summit climber must be accompanied 1 Nepalese Mountain guide, and each expedition must be equipped with 1 team leader.”
- “To further strengthen the cooperation and the management of mountaineering team, and ensure the exploration companies strictly abide by relevant regulations, $5000 will be collected as mountaineering security deposits from each exploration companies at the beginning of mountaineering, and all deposit will be refunded with no safety accidents and environmental problems at the end of mountaineering.”
- “In order to ensure the healthy and orderly development of mountaineering and minimize the occurrence of mountaineering accidents, mountaineering teams which were organized in Nepal temporarily will not be accepted.”
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- “Standard of rubbish-collection fee will be $1500/person for Mt. Everest summit climber, $1000/person for Mt.Cho-oyu, Mt.Shishapangma, Mt. Lhakpari, North-col and Mt. Everest ABC member.”
- “All the climbers, mountain guides and logistic service staff above Base Camp, must bring 8 kg mountaineering rubbish to base camp in each climbing season and hand it over to the Chinese Liaison Officers”
- “Mountaineering Rescue Team of Tibet Autonomous Region and Yarlha Shampo Expedition in Tibet will jointly undertake the rescue missions in Mt. Everest, Mt. Cho-Oyu and Mt. Shishapangma during mountaineering season (Spring and Autumn).”
- “The expenses caused by the rescues shall be borne by the climbers themselves,”
On the surface, there is a lot to like here, most notably the emphasis that is being put on safety and removing trash from the mountain. Those are definitely important steps forward, not only for Everest, but all of the 8000-meter peaks in Tibet. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll also notice that there are some potential troublesome rules as well. For example, it appears that all Nepali operators have been banned from the Tibetan said of the mountain, meaning that only foreign-led teams, and those organized in Tibet itself, will be allowed. The stipulations say that this is temporary, but considering the expedition season only occurs once a year (no fall climbing on Everest in Tibet after all) a temporary ban of two to three years completely freezes out –– and changes the landscape –– for Nepali operators.
The other side of this coin is that the recent rise of inexpensive mountaineering operators, mostly originating in Nepal, has brought cause for concerns. Those teams often have a large number of clients, potentially subpar safety standards, and have a greater ecological impact on the mountain itself. It seems in an effort to get things under control on the Tibetan side, particularly from a safety stand point, the idea is to reduce these low-cost guide services.
Perhaps more intriguing (and potentially disturbing) is the the first rule, which puts an emphasis on an operators “social reputation.” We all know that China has been building a “social credit” system to grade its citizens, but it seems a similar thing is being applied here. Once again, these rules are in place to bring up safety standards, but where does the social reputation of the operator end and that of its guides /owners begin?
Overall, it seems that China is definitely trying to improve safety standards from the Tibetan side of Everest and its other 8000 meter peaks. It seems they will be enforcing these rules harshly, with operators potentially getting banned from the mountain if they don’t strictly adhere to the regulations. There is some speculation that this could be clearing the way for Tibetan guides to take over on the North, potentially removing –– or severely limiting –– all foreign guide services in the future.
That isn’t happening just yet and from my eyes these rules should make for a safer and cleaner climbing experience from the North Side. Only time will tell if there is a deeper plot in the works.
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