Why Nepal’s Delaying the New Mount Everest Climbing Rules

Nepal Everest, Pangboche, Nepal Trekkers make their way to Dingboche, a popular Mount Everest base camp, in Pangboche, Nepal. Nepal celebrated Everest Day, by honoring nine Sherpa guides who fixed ropes and dug the route to the summit so hundreds of climbers could scale the world's highest mountain this month, following two years of disasters 29 May 2016
Tashi Sherpa/AP/Shutterstock

We saw one of the deadliest Mount Everest climbing seasons on record in 2019. At least 11 people died or went missing, most of which happened on the Nepal side of the mountain. In response, Nepal’s government announced a new set of safety rules and guidelines intended to keep inexperienced climbers off the mountain. The hope was to avoid the issues that received worldwide attention last year, including the overcrowding controversy that went viral in a photo taken by climber Nims Purja.

Unfortunately, those rules will not be in place for the 2020 climbing season, which runs from April through May, according to The New York Times. Nepali government officials said “the rules need further review before they can be put in place.”

Nepal’s tourism ministry secretary Kedar Bahadur Adhikari said government officials need to see if Nepali expedition operators are “OK with some of the restrictions,” and that multiple government offices like the “defense, law, finance and forest ministries” still need to approve the guidelines. One other issue regarding the new rules is money. The New York Times spoke with Santa Bir Lama, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, who said that “officials could approve the new measures in a couple of weeks if they wanted,” but that the $11,000 per person government climbing permits “provide crucial cash flow for Nepal.”

When the plans for the new rules were first announced back in August 2019, Men’s Journal spoke with climber Adrian Ballinger—the fourth American to climb Everest and K2 without supplemental oxygen—about the guidelines. Ballinger said the rules were overall a “good first step,” but he had questions.

“For as much as I think some rules should go further, this is a good first step,” Ballinger said. “Tourism is important enough to them that they have to do it, it’s going to take time… They’re heading in the right direction. My first impression was that the officials actually did take their time to think about these rules. Having said that, my next reaction was thinking about how the government actually will implement these rules and if they can work.”

Adrian Ballinger on his climb up K2
Adrian Ballinger making it to the summit of K2. Adrian Ballinger

One of the major guidelines that will not be implemented in 2020 regards the restriction on permits. Last year, a record amount of permits were issued: 381. The 2020 season could see another record with potentially 400 permits being issued.

Here’s a reminder on some of the proposed rules announced last year:

  • People looking to climb Mount Everest must have climbed at least one peak of more than 6,500-meters (21,325 feet) before getting a permit.
  • Climbers will need to submit a report of good health and physical fitness.
  • Climbers will need to be accompanied by a trained Nepalese guide.
  • Clients of expedition companies would have to prove that they had paid at least $35,000 for the expedition.
  • The government may also require mandatory health checkups at Everest Base Camp
  • Tourism/Expedition companies will need to have at least three years experience organizing high-altitude expeditions before leading trips on Mount Everest.

For more on Mount Everest and the climbing issues surrounding the mountain, follow Men’s Journal’s coverage here:

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