By Jason Burke
Climbers watch sunrise in
to climb the mountain would only be granted to those who can provide ‘
proof of competence’ under the new plans. Photograph:
Nepalese officials say they will introduce regulations banning inexperienced climbers from attempting
Mount Everest in an attempt to improve safety and
maintain the “glory” of the summit.
Kripasur Sherpa, the country’s tourism minister, said he hoped to implement the rules in time for the spring season, which usually sees hundreds of mountaineers from across the world attempt to reach the 29,029ft (8,848 metres) summit of the world’s highest peak.
Permits to climb Everest will only be given to those who can prove they have already scaled mountains that are higher than 6,500 metres, officials said. Disabled, old and very young people also face bans.
“We cannot let everyone go on Everest and die. If they are not physically and mentally fit it will be like a legal suicide,” he said.
“The disabled or visually impaired people usually need someone to carry them, which is not an adventure. Only those who can go on their own will be given permission.”
The permits cost thousands of dollars and are a key source of revenue for
. It is unclear how the demand for
“proof of competence” might be enforced. Nepal
Climbing on Everest, which was first conquered by Sir Edmund Hillary andTenzing Norgay in 1953, has become controversial in recent decades.
Every year about 600 climbers come to
hoping to reach the summit, creating
a multimillion-pound industry and bringing problems of overcrowding. Nepal
Junko Tabei, who became the first woman to conquer Everest in 1975, expressed concerns last week about the numbers of mountaineers on the peak.
“Allowing a large number of climbers in a season poses high risks to the mountain environment and the climbers as well,” Tabei said.
Various measures have been suggested to ease overcrowding and make the mountain safer for guides and their clients.
A ban on those people who are under 18, over 75 or disabled would not affect numbers substantially as such climbers are very rare. The first disabled climber ascended Everest in 1998, an American mountaineer who had lost part of one leg in a traffic accident. In 2001, a blind climber reached the summit. The mountain has been scaled by a 13-year-old and an 80-year-old.
However, there is more support for regulations banning novice climbers.
Whereas once Everest only attracted the world’s best and most experienced mountaineers, recent years have seen aspiring summiteers who are using basic equipment such as an ice axe and crampons for the first time.
Totally reliant on their paid guides for their safety, and incapable of helping any other climbers who might be in trouble, such people are often a liability, veteran mountaineers have frequently argued.
“Such a rule is going to be introduced to maintain the glory of Everest,” said Mohan Krishna Sapkota, acting secretary of the ministry of tourism.
He said that now “everyone is going to Everest”, levels of risk for all involved had become much higher. “The Everest summit should be dignified and an issue of glory, so for that the ministry is working on introducing some limits,” Sapkota said.
There has also been much criticism of a system in which foreign expedition organisers hire local guides and support staff whose pay is a tiny fraction of the fees westerners pay to reach the summit.
A series of major accidents in recent years have prompted some reforms,with marginally better conditions, protection and remuneration for the Nepalese working on the mountain, though much remains to be done.
Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, said the new rules had been frequently discussed in the past.
He added: “So I doubt this will be implemented. Earlier such plans were aborted because of pressure from human rights organisations and foreign embassies.”
Ang Tshering said he would support “anyone disabled [who] can go on his or her own” to the summit of Everest but “those who need personal assistance or to be carried to reach the top should not venture on the peak.”
He believed the age bar would be positive.
“This can be a good move,” Ang Tshering said, pointing out that
did not allow climbers below 16
years of age or older than 75 to climb Everest from the northern side. China
DB Parajuli, chairman of the Expedition Operators’ Association of Nepal, also supported the idea of some rules to maintain the “importance of Everest”.
Teams of specialist local guides and climbers have spent weeks preparing a route up Everest for a single Japanese climber in the hope that a successful ascent would send a message that
is “open for business”, officials
The climber, Nobukazu Kuriki, was forced to abandon his attempt above the final camp on the mountain’s
South Col route. He had lost eight fingers and
a thumb on previous attempts to reach the summit.