Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Himalaya 2016: The New Requirements for Climbing on Everest

The 2016 Himalayan climbing season is fast approaching at this point, and in just a few weeks time I'll be reporting on the first arrival of mountaineers in Kathmandu. Over the weeks that follow, we'll be following the progress of a variety of teams as they attempt to scale Everest and other major peaks across the region. But in the run up to the start of those expeditions we're learning more about how the climbing scene on the world's tallest mountain is changing, thanks to Alan Arnette and others, and some of what we've learned is eye opening.

If you haven't read part 1 of Alan's series on how Everest is changing I recommend you do so now. It is definitely insightful, and gives us a sense of what to expect not only this year, but in the years ahead. Yesterday, he posted part 2 of this ongoing series which takes a look at the new requirements for climbers heading to Everest this year. Those requirements could also have a dramatic and far reaching impact for mountaineering in Nepal, particularly if they are enforced fully.

According to Alan, the new rules passed on by the Nepali government say this:

  • Climbers must be between 18 and 75 years of age
  • Permits will only be given to those who can prove they have already scaled mountains that are higher than 6,500 meters (21,325 feet)
  • Disabled or visually impaired people need someone to carry them. Only those who can go on their own will be given permission.
Unfortunately, it appears that none of these rules are being enforced at all this season, which is exactly what we've seen from Nepal in the past. Following major accidents or other incidents on the mountain, the government attempts to look like it's doing something, but in reality its usually just a show. They'll announce major changes to rules or new regulations, but then those regulations are rarely – if ever – enforced. We've seen it time and time again, and for the most part it always appears that the regime in power is mostly interested in the revenue that is generated from mountaineering – often to line their own pockets – more than actually making things safer. 

Alan goes on to examine how these new regulations are impacting western guiding companies, many of whom have already started implementing requirements for experience on Himalayan peaks on their own. 

What does this mean for climbers? In theory, it should result in more experienced teams on Everest over all, although most don't think that will actually be the case. No matter what the outcome though, it is clear that things are in a state of flux there now, and in a few years, it could be a very different climate on the mountain. 

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