Nepal mulls criteria to climb world’s highest mountain after deadly season

Source:AFP Published: 2019/8/15 21:48:41

Climbers wanting to take on Mount Qomolangma, commonly known in the West as Mount Everest, will first have to tackle another Nepal mountain of at least 6,500 meters under new proposals by a committee seeking to improve safety on the world's highest peak.

The requirement is being proposed after a deadly traffic-clogged season saw 11 climbers die on Qomolangma, which some experts blamed on inexperience.

"These recommendations have been made to ensure the quality and safety of Nepal's mountaineering tourism," Ghanshyam Upadhayay, tourism ministry official and head of the committee told AFP. 

The committee also proposed a fee of at least $35,000 for Qomolangma and $20,000 for other mountains over 8,000 meters, amid criticism that cost-cutting by expedition organizers was jeopardizing climbers' safety. 

The 59-page report recommended minimum standards for climbers, expedition organizers as well as guides and government liaison officers involved in Nepal's lucrative mountaineering industry. 

"We will take this forward by amending the laws and regulations... we will make our mountains safe, managed and dignified," Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattari told reporters. 

For years, Kathmandu has issued Qomolangma permits to anyone willing to pay $11,000, regardless of whether they were rookie climbers or skilled mountaineers.

This year record 885 people climbed Qomolangma, 644 of them from the south and 241 from the northern flank in China. 

Nine of the 11 deaths were on the Nepal side, and at least four of the deaths this season were blamed on overcrowding.

A traffic jam forced teams to wait for hours in freezing temperatures to reach Qomolangma's 8,848-meter summit and then descend, increasing the risk of frostbite, altitude sickness and exhaustion from depleted oxygen levels.

But experts say the bigger killer was inexperience among a new wave of ill-prepared mountaineer tourists.

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