In a dramatic increase, physician the China Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) has notified operators that they will increase the permit costs for climbers, Sherpa and cooks. The net impact is that a permit to climb Everest from the north is now more expensive than from the south for most climbers. This according to Phil Crampton of Altitude Junkies.
The north side of Everest has long been the ‘bargain’ side primarily based on a lower cost permit from the Chinese then Nepal’s permit of $10,000 per climber. This is turn had attracted the lowest budget operators, and independent climbers. But this had a downside with an annual list of deaths, near deaths and rescues on that side. As I outlined in this post, the death rate is 2:1 on the north side compared to the south.
The north has always been more complicated than the better supported south but was supported by a few high quality operators for many years. However in 2008 when the Chinese effectively closed Everest so they could have unobstructed access to take the Olympic torch to the summit, most operators threw in the towel and shifted operations to the south. But the low price continued to attract climbers and slowly the north side has been gaining attention. Now this is up in the air once again.
A few years ago the CTMA issued rules for the ratio of western climbers to Sherpas, a minimum number of Tibetan support staff and other regulations designed to drive business to Tibet and away from Nepal. The net impact however was for operators to move to Nepal given the availability of skilled support climbers. The past few years, the CTMA has struggled to get the fixed lines set to the summit before late April, a few weeks later than on the south side.
So this increase in permit costs, if applied to training of the Tibetan climbers, might be a wise move to bring parity. But if it goes into other hands, it will continue to drive the decline of the north. The CTMA has operated a climbing school in Lhasa for many years trying to develop a quality set of climbers to support expeditions on Everest.
The CTMA has been slowly equalizing both sides so this is just the latest move. After 13 year-old Jordan Romero summited in 2010, they raised the minimum age to 18, 2 years older than Nepal and set a maximum age of 60 but would consider exceptions on the upper limit. Now they have addressed price.
Phil reports the increases as follows:
The permit price per foreign climber has increased by 30%.
The permit price per Nepal Sherpa has increased by 67%.
The permit price per Nepal Cook has increased by 125%.
Phil, after moving from the north to south a few years ago, is returning to the north in 2012. He said he is looking forward to a less crowded mountain. He is charging $40,000 per climber, about the same as most reputable operators on the south including a personal Sherpa, full oxygen and base camp facilities – the works.
Once again, Everest has drama. 2012 will be here soon!