Friday, March 20, 2015

Himalaya Spring 2015: Nepal Extends 2014 Climbing Permits for Everest

With the start of the 2015 spring climbing season in the Himalaya fast approaching, we continue to receive a string of important news stories ahead of the arrival of climbing teams. The latest announcement from the Nepali government is that they will now officially honor all of the climbing permits from 2014. You may recall that the climbing season on Everest and Lhotse was cancelled in the wake of a tragic avalanche that claimed the lives of 16 Sherpas there. Since then there has been a great deal of confusion over just how and when the teams that were on the mountain last year could return.

In this latest announcement, the Ministry of Tourism made it clear that they would honor 442 permits issued last year for climbers on Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse. The individual climbers are free to return anytime between now and the spring of 2019, although they must do so with the commercial guide service that they had originally planned to climb with in 2014. Any mountaineers heading to Everest will be forced to pay an additional $1000 which reflects the change in pricing that went into effect this year.

Government officials had previously announced that they would recognize permits from the canceled 2014 season, but had stipulated that all the teams must return together. That meant that if some members of a squad were unable to return as part of the group they would forfeit their permit and be forced to purchase another one. This recent ruling allows individuals to come back at any time.

This announcement isn't without some issues however. Since climbers must return to Nepal with the guide service they had previously signed on with, this ruling could leave some out in the cold. For instance, the Peak Freaks and High Adventure Expeditions have already canceled their climbs for this year, and possibly 2016 as well, while other high profile squads – including Alpenglow Expeditions and Amical Alpin – have transferred their operations to the North Side of the mountain in Tibet. Unless these companies change their operations, their clients from last year may never get an opportunity to use their permits.

Additionally, with the 2015 spring climbing season about to start, more than a few climbers from last year have already signed up to return to the Himalaya. Those individuals will likely have already payed for their impending expeditions, which means they'll probably have to cut through a lot of bureaucratic red tape to try to get their money back from last year. Considering how the government in Nepal operates, those climbers shouldn't hold their breath on ever seeing that money again.

Still, this is good news for the climbers who haven't signed up to return just yet. It has taken months to get to this point, despite the fact that everyone knew this was the right decision all along, but at least there is some hope the mountaineers who had their dreams dashed last season. This isn't the most convenient way to handle the situation, but it is the best that can be done for now.

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