On April 18th, an avalanche swept the slopes of Mount Everest and caused the tragic deaths of 16 Nepalese Sherpa guides. The accident brought Sherpas and the Nepalese government into dispute over pay and conditions, with guides refusing to lead any foreign expeditions, and consequently terminating early the lucrative April to May climbing season.
Encouraging the climbers to keep coming
Hundreds of climbers were forced to abandon the route to Mount Everest from the Nepalese side, generally considered to be the easier ascent. However, the cost of an expedition to Everest is not cheap, with a climbing permit usually costing at least $11,000. The government, eager to encourage the climbers to return for the autumn season, agreed to extend their permits for another five years. Revenue derived from the climbers is an important source of income in a country that may be rich in mountain peaks but less blessed with hard currency.
Choosing which peaks to open
Eight of the world’s 14 tallest mountains lie in Nepal including, of course, the mighty Everest. Now climbers will have an opportunity to be the ‘first’ to set foot on one of the 104 newly opened Himalayan peaks. Among these untrodden and as yet unconquered mountains, they may find themselves able to set new world records and follow the likes of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay into history.
But as tourism ministry official Burlakott pointed out, ‘Some peaks have cultural and religious significance. We have to keep that in mind before deciding which ones to open for climbers.’
A challenge to the brave
Including the newly opened 104, there are now 414 peaks to scale in Nepal, but despite the government waiving climbing fees for peaks under 5,800, many of the new 6000 and 7000 metre summits will probably be most attractive to experienced mountaineers, looking quite literally for new routes to climb. Nevertheless, Nepal will continue to offer challenges to every mountain climbing enthusiast, from first timers to the most dedicated hardcore.