Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Changing Face of Climbing on Everest

We're a little over a month away from the start of the 2016 climbing season on Everest, and as I write this there are climbers from all over the world who are putting the final touches on their planning, and are anxiously awaiting the start of their expeditions. As always, it should be a busy, interesting year on the world's tallest mountain, but as it turns out, it could also be the end of an era as we see a changing of the guard there too.

Last week, Everest blogger Alan Arnette began a new series of articles about how the mountain is changing. You can read part 1 here, which gives us the background of what is happening there, and how it will impact the future of climbing in Nepal, and beyond.

In a nutshell, the business of guiding on Everest is changing dramatically, with more and more western guide services having a difficult time competing with the local outfitters, who are dramatically undercutting them on price. They can do this because they are not subject to some of the same rules and regulations as operators from other countries, and aren't charged the same fees. This is making it impossible for the western companies to compete, and as a result some of those companies are making 2016 their final year on the Big Hill.

One of those companies is Altitude Junkies, who have been a staple on Everest for a decade. But AJ owner Phil Crampon explains exactly why he will abandon future expeditions to Everest, and will instead lead climbers on other mountains in Nepal and other parts of the world instead. This sentiment is echoed by Willie Benegas of Benegas Brothers Expeditions. They've led teams on Everest for years as well, but won't be there at all this season.

Most of what you read in this story is just background information for what's to come. Alan will delve deeper into this story, which should be a very interesting one for those who follow the Everest climbing scene closely. This year, we're told, will be less crowded that in the past, as many alpinists have elected to stay away. That's making the competitive landscape there even more challenging, as some of the bigger guiding companies aren't filling out their rosters as they have in previous years. Uncertainty over the climate on the mountain have left some gun shy, and as a result they're staying way for now. That will likely change in the future, but it is the reality of the situation now.

Of course, we'll be watching the season unfold with great interest as always. It seems like it's going to be quite an eventful year. 

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