August 5, 2013
New Rules For Scaling Everest – Nepal Brings In The Feds
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Following a mountainside altercation between mountain climbers and local sherpa guides that occurred earlier this year, Nepalese officials have announced that government agents will be stationed at the Mount Everest base camp and be charged with the responsibility of monitoring expedition teams, coordinating any rescue efforts, and safeguarding the local environment.
Purna Chandra Bhattarai, Nepal's chief of the tourism industry division that oversees mountaineering, told the BBC of "A need for a permanent government mechanism at the Everest base camp ... (to) regulate mountaineering activities."
"The Integrated Service Centre will also facilitate climbers by offering them communication and safety related services," he added.
Government officials said they expect the base camp will represent the rule of law on the ground starting in the spring climbing season of 2014. Experts said that the Nepalese government has had difficulties regulating mountaineering activities from the capital, Kathmandu.
"When there is the presence of the government on the ground, the message 'violating the law is punishable' becomes clearer," Bhattarai said.
The new policy would be a much stronger one than the policy currently in place, which requires climbing teams to simply register with a government liaison officer during expeditions. Critics have said that these liaisons rarely leave Kathmandu - leaving the climbers on the mountain largely on their own.
"And even when the liaison officers rarely went to the field, they were accountable to expedition teams only and not to the (government)," Bhattarai said. "Now personnel with the Integrated Service Centre will also do the job of liaison officers and that will include checking climbing permits and verifying whether climbers reached the Everest summit.
"Up until now, the information whether someone made it to the summit took time to reach us in Kathmandu while the rest of the world knew about it first through the media," the tourism chief continued. "That will change now."
Observers speculated that the new policy would also curb the recent trend of setting bizarre records that some climbers seem to have embraced. Government officials said climbers would now have to make their record-setting intentions clear before beginning their ascent.
"We have had many examples in the past when climbers did not share their plan to set a record beforehand and they made the record claims only after they reached the summit," said Ang Tshering Sherpa, the former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.
"These days we see people trying to make bizarre records like, for instance, standing on their head or taking off their clothes while on the summit," Ang Tshering said. "These behaviours don't bode well for the dignity of Everest, which is a global icon."
"And now the integrated team will make sure that expedition teams inform them beforehand if they intend to make a new record," he added. "The team will then let the climbers know whether the planned record-making effort falls within stipulated criteria set by the government."
Despite stricter new guidelines, current president of NMA, Zimba Zangbu Sherpa, said policing the world's highest peak will still be a difficult undertaking.
"If climbers still violate the rules, the administration will not be able to stop them because the officials at base camp cannot be expected to reach the summit every now and then," he said.
One unnamed expedition operator told the BBC News that the new policy would work only if "officials entrusted with the duty are regulated first."