Nepal pledges to improve climbing conditions on Everest

AP News
|
Posted: Feb 23, 2015 1:15 AM

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal is improving weather forecasting systems, stepping up security and promises swift rescues if needed during the upcoming climbing season on Everest in attempt to recover from the worst mountaineering disaster on the world's highest peak last year.

Fees for individual climbers will also be cut to attract climbers back.

The chief of Nepal's Mountaineering Department Puspa Raj Katuwal said Monday that the government will ensure that conditions will be safer for both international climbers and Nepalese guides, and that a camp with officials will be deployed at the base camp for the three-month climbing that begins in March.

An avalanche near the base camp last April killed 16 local guides and prompted climbers to abandon the 2014 climbing season.

"We are working on plans to improve the conditions on the mountain this year. We are setting up a full-time office tent at the base camp which will have our officials throughout the climbing season," Katuwal said.

That would allow the officials to quickly respond to any problem on the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) mountain. They would also provide security, settle disputes among climbers and monitor the activities of the hundreds of climbers and guides at the base camp.

Nepalese government has been repeatedly criticized for not having a presence at the base camp and doing too little despite earning millions in permit fees.

The country's national weather service will provide forecasts for Everest for the officials to release at the base camp. The officials will also monitor the amount of garbage taken by climbers down the mountain. Left-behind garbage has become a problem in recent years.

Katuwal said he was confident that climbers would return to Everest, especially because of the slashed permit fees, which will cost $11,000 per climber this year for permission to climb Everest, down from $25,000.

The moves come after one of the major expedition company announced that it was ceasing operations on the southern side of the peak in Nepal and shifting to the northern face in China.

Adrian Ballinger of California-based Alpenglow Expeditions said their decision was based on concerns and fear of the dangers on the treacherous Khumbu Icefall section of the climb, where an avalanche hit the Sherpa guides last year.

"The risk has become truly too great," Ballinger said in a telephone interview.

He said there were too many people on the mountain without climbing experience and that Nepal should have regulations requiring climbers to have high-altitude experience before being issued a climbing permit.

The load carried by the porters and guides should also be drastically reduced.

"There is no need for dining tables or heaters at Camp 2," he said adding there should a highly funded and trained rescue team at the base camp to respond when needed.

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled Everest but hundreds have died attempting to climb it.