On April 21, Nepal’s Department of Tourism issued a new directive establishing a climber quota to avoid crowding on Everest. Mountaineers chosen based on their climbing permit numbers will be permitted to attempt the summit within the first weather window, according to the directive. As the number of permits for Everest approaches 400, the decision was taken.
The order comes as rumors of Covid-19 cases have emerged at Everest Base Camp, though the department has dismissed them. Officials claim they are concerned about the climbers’ protection and are working hard to prevent the infection from spreading further.
The directive, on the other hand, has been deemed useless by several expedition agencies, which say that it would be impossible to execute on the mountain. However, Mira Acharya, a director with the Department of Tourism, claims that regulations have been put in place to better control the mountain and minimize crowds. She also discusses an alternative to the quota system in an interview with Onlinekhabar, as well as how the department is making the most of limited resources.
Excerpts from the directive:
What exactly is the purpose of this new directive?
It’s all part of a scheme to keep people off the mountain. We’ve agreed that only a certain number of people should be allowed on the mountain based on previous results. We’ve earned the teams who received their permits first and acclimatized appropriately the first right to climb. In the first weather window, Permits 6 to 38 have the first shot. Every year, over 300 climbers attempt to reach the summit of Everest, but not all of them do so at the same time. We’re putting this new law to the test for climber safety.
However, the latest directive was released a little late. What was the reason for this? Would it have an effect on the planning?
When ropes are still being fixed and climbers haven’t even reached Camp 1, how can you call it late? This, I believe, has been misinterpreted. This decision was taken after consultation with all parties involved, including the Expedition Operators Association Nepal (EOA), in order to ensure a healthy mountaineering framework.
We want it to be first-come, first-served because it’s only fair that those who get their permits first get to go up the mountain first. This is the proper course of action. Aside from that, we’ve provided them with an alternative.
What other options do you have?
If the quota scheme isn’t available, the expedition agencies will make decisions depending on the circumstances. We at the department understand that things do not always go as expected on the mountain, which is why we have stated that a total of 150-170 climbers will ascend the mountain in one push. This is focused on previous experience. The expedition companies will communicate with one another and decide who will ascend the mountain. We haven’t found the law inflexible. It’s adaptable. However, as I previously said, we want people to be protected.
How can you keep track of this? Will it be difficult?
On the mountain, we have liaison officers and other officials. This is not, once again, a hard-and-fast guideline. On a daily basis, we speak with people at the base camp. Apart from that, our legislation authorizes expedition organizations to observe what occurs on the mountain. They are, after all, essential for a good mountaineering season. If we want a good season in the midst of a pandemic, we must all work together, the government, climbers, and expedition agencies.
Is this law in place to prevent Everest traffic jams?
I dislike the term “traffic jam.” In the mountains, I don’t believe there are any traffic jams. The pictures you see every year are from a segment that is small, almost like a bottleneck, because there will still be people there, no matter how many there are. We are aware of this, and as I previously said, we want to better manage the mountain and the season. This is why this law exists.
This year, the department has issued nearly 400 permits. Couldn’t the number of permits be limited to prevent crowding on the mountain?
We would have done it a long time ago if there was a rule that required it. We’ve spoken about it, but without a rule, restricting the number of climbers would be difficult.
I’m sure that if we did that, people will criticize our decision. We would be kicking ourselves if we made such a decision. We have no plans to restrict the number of climbers for the time being.
Liaison officers don’t always make it to the mountain, according to industry insiders. Isn’t it possible for the department to set up a monitoring office at the base camp or at Gorak Shep?
In an ideal world, that would be ideal. But, once again, the law prevents us from doing so. Aside from that, the department has a small number of employees. We have less than 30 employees, which makes things difficult. People often criticize liaison officers, but I believe this is unwarranted. When it comes to handling and overseeing stuff on the mountain, they and the department are doing our best. But, as I’m sure you’re aware, things can be better. What we need are some favorable rules.
The Royal Bahrain Guard will fire the first shot on the mountain, according to permits. People are speculating that this law was enacted specifically for them in order for them to get the first shot on the mountain. Do you have something to say to those people?
This point is ridiculous. We are not prejudiced against anybody. We don’t ask for favors. We’re a Nepalese government agency dedicated to preserving mountain dignity. That would have been the case if they had been the last to apply for the permit and we had said the last would go first, but that is not the case. The rules are in place for everyone and have been in place for a long time in order to control crowds on the mountain and save lives.