Nepal: Avalanche effect could see fewer Everest attempts this season

  • Utpal Parashar, Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
  • Updated: Mar 15, 2015 16:02 IST

The icefall doctors of Everest, the hardy Sherpas who fix ropes and ladders along the route to the world's highest peak for benefit of climbers, have begun preparations for the coming spring season.

But the slopes of the 8,848-metre peak which witnesses a heavy rush of climbers every year during April-May could witness fewer attempts at glory from the southern or Nepal side this season.

It was while fixing ropes on the route for last year's spring climbing season when 16 Sherpas were buried under an avalanche on April 18. Thirteen bodies were recovered and three more still lie buried under snow.

The incident put an end to last spring's expeditions. The after effects of the tragedy, which raised questions on safety and better management, is likely to affect climbing on Everest this season too.

Two major companies from outside Nepal, High Adventure Expeditions (USA) and Peak Freaks (Canada), have already announced their decision to cancel their Everest expeditions for this year.

"The continued vacillating by the Nepali government, the circling media and the unanswered questions from 2014 all lead us to believe that our climbers will be better served by postponing their climbs until 2016," High Adventure Expeditions wrote on their site.

Following last year's tragedy the Nepal government announced better safety measures and higher insurance cover for Sherpas, but dithering attitude on extension of permits to last year's climbers has affected most expeditions.

Last year's avalanche forced 334 climbers from all over the world to abandon their attempts on Everest. Nepal government is yet to decide whether the individual permits issued last year will be valid for this season too.

Reports say the government will extend the permits this week. But the delay in taking the decision has affected many of last year's climbers who were planning to make another attempt this season.

"As someone who had permission from last year, this situation is very frustrating. I probably won't be able to return (to climb this season)," wrote Ellis Stewart, a British climber on US climber Alan Arnette's blog.

Individual climbers, who team up with other expeditions, spend USD 10,000 on the permit. If approved for another season, climbers will have to pay an additional USD 1,000 as part of revised royalty rules by Nepal government.

In his overview of what to expect from this climbing season on Everest, Arnette writes that there would be "smaller number of climbers on the South (Nepal), a bit more on the North (Tibet)."

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