Spanish Climber Receives 5 Year Ban for Illegal Expedition in Nepal

Last week I shared a story about two Spanish climbers who attempted to summit the 6257 meter (20,528 ft) Chukima Go in Nepal without a climbing permit. Their plan ran into trouble when one of the climbers slipped on the slope, plummeting 700 meters (2296 ft) to his death, while his companion was left stranded high on the peak. Using a satellite phone he was able to call for help and was eventually rescued, only to find himself in legal trouble with the Nepali government. Now, a week later, his sentence has been passed down and he now faces a five-year climbing ban in the country.

Apparently, Felipe Valverde and David Suela came to Nepal this autumn to attempt Chukima Go, but didn’t bother with obtaining a proper permit. Initially, the Nepali Department of Tourism said that a permit had been issued for two Spanish climbers for the mountain, but neither Valverde or Suela were the names on that permit. As a result, the two men were climbing illegally, something that is taken very seriously in Nepal.

Unfortunately, Valverde lost his life during the expedition, while Suela had to be rescued from the mountain. Once he was airlifted back to Kathmandu, his passport was immediately confiscated pending an investigation. Now, according to The Himalayan Times the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation in Nepal has handed down its judgement, banning the Spanish climber from entering the country for a term of five years.

Meera Acharya, the Department of Tourism’s director, told the Times that the action was taken against Suela to “discourage climbers to commit illegal acts on mountains.” Whether or not such a sentence does accomplish that goal is hard to argue, as it is my opinion that the ban should be longer, possibly for life. That said, Suela will be eligible to return to Nepal in five year’s time should he choose to do so.

This brings a close to a tragic climbing expedition. For the most part, the autumn climbing season has been a safe one, with few injuries or fatalities. The illegal nature of this particular climb makes for salacious headlines for sure, but at the end of the day it is a shame that Felipe Valverde lost his life. Our continuing condolences to his friends and family.

Kraig Becker