Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism made a follow-up announcement on the proposed changes for guiding and climbing on Mt. Everest. It was back on August 14, 2019, when a broad set of proposals were announced to address the nine deaths that occurred this year on the Nepal side.
Now, like then, there are no changes until the proposals are approved by Parliament. If approved, a few are targeted for the 2020 spring season.
Today December 16, 2019, an article in the Kathmandu Post reveals what changes might be enacted for the spring 2020 season. They would now require each climber seeking a permit to:
- Disclose their medical history
- Submit a medical report by a certified doctor
- Purchase search, rescue, and treatment insurance
- Submit a basic mountaineering training certificate at the department to obtain a climbing permit.
The article suggests there were only three previous rules that could limit climbers: not younger than 16, no “serious diseases” and no criminal history.
Future Rules – 2021 and Beyond
Another change proposed for the 2021 season is around the infamous and mysterious Liasion Officers. Instead of the phony one LO per team who never showed up or added any value, now the Ministry of Tourism suggests a group comprising a doctor, army and police personnel, and government officials will be sent to base camp for the season to oversee activities. This has been proposed many times and never implemented.
There is no mention of climbers having to summited a 6500+ meter peak in Nepal or raising permit prices or enforcing the arbitrary minimum expedition fee of $35,000, which includes the $11,000 climbing permit. There was a note about putting an upper limit on the number of permits. Similar to the 300 level imposed by the Chinese for members on their side. The reason for the delay is primarily due to Nepal’s “Visit Nepal 2020 campaign,” where they want to attract 2 million tourists in 2020. Once again, Nepal puts money over safety.
The key question from all of these new rules from both Chinese and Nepal is if they will be enforced. By all accounts from this past 2019 spring season, China is serious, and sources tell me that the CTMA, the Tibetans in charge of the CTMA, really want to clean Everest and the other mountains. As for Nepal, if the past is prologue, then we can anticipate no real changes and business as usual. In fact, one well-placed foreign guide told me that his Nepali contacts suggest all of this is window dressing and nothing will change.
Impact – Little to None
In my view, all of these proposals will not make climbing Everest any safer. The long-time reputable guides already have medical and evacuation insurance requirements. Asking for your medical history may be illegal and a breach of privacy. As for the “basic mountaineering training certificate”, without more specifics, this is toothless and can be easily forged as can all the other documents.
Finally, as we saw with the Annapurna incident last spring, it is very difficult to purchase “search” insurance. Most companies only cover rescue from a known location or severely limit the amount of money used for search because it can easily be open-ended and run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
None of these rules seriously address the root cause of at least seven of the nine deaths on the Nepal side in 2019: inexperienced climbers with underqualified guides who lack the proper resources to support, lead and manage a legitimate expedition on Everest.
We will know more once the Parliament meets, but the real consequences will be revealed once the climbing season begins in three months.
Please see these two previous posts on the new rules:
Memories are Everything