Nepal to Require Medical Exam Before Attempts on Everest?

There is no question that the 2019 spring climbing season on Mt. Everest was a difficult one. Not only did we see serious traffic jams on the world’s highest peak, there were more than a dozen deaths that occurred high on the mountain too. In this wake of these high-profile incidences, the Nepal government was strongly criticized for not taking stronger action to prevent accidents and regulate the size of the crowds on Everest. Now, as we inch closer to the start of the 2020 season, there are once again rumors that indicate that new regulations may be coming soon.

According to an article posted by the South China Morning Post, Nepali officials are preparing to announce the requirement of a medical examination prior to climbers heading to Mt. Everest. This new rule is apparently being bounced around the Nepali Ministry of Tourism—which oversees mountaineering activity—and could go into effect as soon as April 1. It is unclear whether or not that would mean the requirement would be in place for this upcoming season, as by the start of April, many climbers are already en route to Nepal. Perhaps doctors in Kathmandu could perform the exams before climbing teams depart for the Khumbu Valley, although considering the track record for corruption and mismanagement that exists in the country, that seems like a potentially bad idea too.

This news comes our way via Matt Napiltonia, who serves as a senior operations specialist for Global Rescue, an organization that oversees evacuations and medical attention for many climbers on Everest each year. Napiltonia says that he has visited Nepal recently and met with government officials and doctors to discuss this matter. He believes that the new rules are coming sooner, rather than later, and that they are a step in the right direction when it comes to making Everest safer.

“It’s about personal responsibility, but people do stupid stuff and bite off more they can chew,” Napiltonia is quoted by the SCMP as saying. “So how do you deal with that? I think the Nepalese government are doing a good job, at least in the first steps, to get a medical evaluation in place. But they have to get their heads around how many permits they should sell, too.”

That last part of Napitonia’s statement is one that I certainly agree with. While a medical examination prior to the start of an expedition isn’t a bad idea, I feel that it won’t have a serious impact on the number of fatalities that occur on the mountain. After all, most of the climbers are in reasonably good condition before they ever arrive in Nepal. But regulating the number of permits, requiring a higher level of experience, and cutting back on the number of people on the mountain could go a long way towards making it safer. Of course, that also means less money in Nepal’s coffers, which at the end of the day is something that they seem to want to avoid.

Kraig Becker