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guidelines about everest climbing and helicopter flight over Everest Base camp

New Everest Conservation Measures Promote Sustainable Tourism: Helicopter Flight Guidelines by Supreme Court

Introduction

helicopter in everest

Nepal’s supreme court has given a new order to the government of Nepal regarding the Everest climbing. The panel of Sapana Pradhan Malla and Sushma Lata Mathema has given strict orders to impose a limit on the number of permits issued to climb Everest and helicopter flight restrictions. The order from the judges came after the public interest petition filed by advocate Deepak Bikram Mishra.

As per the new order, the Everest climbing permits can only be issued after mentioning how many climbers are allowed according to the available capacity. Also, the helicopter flight above the Everest base camp has been banned, except for rescue events. The Supreme Court has also directed mountain climbing members to make a list of gear and equipment that climbers plan to take with them.

The list should be made before the departure point and upon their arrival to determine if all the items have been brought back or not at the arrival point. The deposit should be returned only after proving that they have brought back everything that they took.

The reason behind the ban

Given Nepal’s vulnerability to climate change and the rise in temperature in recent years, this can become the reason behind the meltdown of glaciers, which causes outbursts of floods and flood-related disasters. The Supreme Court has specifically mentioned keeping the focus on mountain protection and cleanliness.

It’s been proven that the effects of such disasters directly affect farmers and agriculture in Nepal. “In this context, it appears imperative for the state to undertake special care and protective measures in response to the impacts of climate change on the mountains and glaciers,” stated the order issued by the division bench. “This also aligns with the constitutional responsibility of the state towards the environment and its citizens,” the order reads.

The massive inflow of mountaineers to areas like Sagarmatha National Park, Kanchenjunga, Langtang, Macchapuchre, and Makalu with their respective base camps has severely affected the conservation efforts around the area. The Supreme Court, while announcing the importance of tourism in Nepal, expressed concern over the negative impact of mountain expeditions in sensitive areas and helicopter flights over the Everest base camp.

Mr. Pemba Sherpa, the assistant conservation officer at Sagarmatha National Parks, says that the ban was also implemented because of security issues. “We’ve heard about how helicopters in various parts of the country have been involved in the smuggling of wildlife contraband. There have been cases in Dolpa and Humla. Who says it can’t happen here in the Everest region?” says Sherpa.

Tourism vs Conservation

tourist heading towards everest

Mr. Pratap Pandey, the managing director at Kailash Helicopter, says, “The decision seems very stupid to us. People come here to see Everest and Everest Base Camp. It has and will always be Nepal’s USP when it comes to tourism. To take that away from people willing to spend to get there is kicking ourselves.”Pandey added that the decision was made without considering the impact it may have on the industry and the whole economy.

However, Mr. Bhumiraj Upadhyaya, the chief conservation officer at Sagarmatha National Park, says that the decision was made by the national park in coordination with the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of Nepal. This decision will help in controlling the smuggling of wildlife via helicopters and the pollution caused by helicopters.

According to Upadhyaya, in recent years, there has been unnecessary helicopter movement in these areas. He added, “All sorts of people come and go from the national park, and we hardly have any details as helicopters don’t need permission from us, and now it will be easy to keep track of who has entered and exited the national park.

Helicopter flights over Everest base camp

Helicopter flights over the Everest base camp are quite a popular helicopter tour in Nepal. It is the dream of every traveler to have a view of the mighty Everest, but not everybody can walk the distance. These flights provide an aerial perspective of the iconic Everest region, allowing passengers to marvel at its towering peaks, vast glaciers, and rugged terrain from the comfort of a helicopter.

So helicopter flights have made this easy and less time-consuming. There has been a huge increase in the number of helicopter flights over the Everest base camp in the past few years. But now the updated policy by the Supreme Court of Nepal says that helicopter flights can only be done up to the Everest base camp.

Is this policy effective?

Each year, the national authorities of Nepal implement new policies to preserve the fragile mountain environment. Despite the implementation of such policies every year, Nepal’s reputation is tarnished by news like an increase in abandoned trash, overpopulation, and accidents that lead to the deaths of climbers and guides.

Some helicopter-related business owners claim that helicopters increase safety, especially when they spare clients and staff from going through risky sections like the Khumbu Icefall. The main advantage of a helicopter is that it allows clients to visit multiple mountains during a single season. In the past few years, helicopter tours have significantly contributed to increased profit by providing optional airlifts to or from Everest base camp and higher camps.

Every year, the government and many public campaigns are made to raise visitor awareness and the well-being of the mountain environment.  But the real issue lies in how to effectively impose such policies and campaigns, and for how long. Imposing a ban on helicopter flights is surely going to affect expedition activities. It remains to be seen if the decision of the Supreme Court will truly overcome the interests of private commercial interests.

Waste management policy

garbage on everest

From this year onward, climbers heading for the Everest and Lhotse expeditions can’t leave their waste on the mountain. The Tourism Department has collaborated with Khumbu Pasang Lahmu Gaupalika regarding this waste management policy. To keep Mount Everest clean and pollution-free, this policy has been implemented. The upper region of Everest is filled with human waste, ropes, tin, and empty oxygen cylinders. To prevent further increases in such waste and garbage, this policy is going to play a huge role.

According to the Chairman of Khumbu Pasang Lahmu Gaupalika, Mr. Mingma Chiri Sherpa, climbers have been dumping their waste and garbage in the South Kol region. From now on, climbers will be provided with a special kind of package to keep their waste. The packages will have a capacity of five kg, which will be enough for the time that climbers are going to spend in the upper region. Those packages will contain certain chemicals and dust, which will prevent the foul odor of waste and garbage.

Electronic Chips for Climbers

To make mountain expeditions safe and well-managed, the climbers will be implanted with a special kind of electronic chip on their outfit. According to the Director of the Tourism Department, to have a timely search and rescue mission for climbers during disastrous situations, this policy had to be implemented. Climbers will face many accidents, like getting lost, altitude sickness, or any other unforeseeable accidents. The implanted chip will help in locating each climber during such situations.

For the protection of human life, this chip will play a very important role. This practice has been going on in several mountains all around the world. These chips have been well-tested in the international market. The cost of such ships is 15-20 dollars, and the cost of these chips will be covered by the respective travel agency.

Strictness in Everest climbing

Nepal has been facing a lot of criticism from the international media regarding its management of the Everest climbing expedition. To make the Everest climb well-managed and to investigate the activities during the expedition, the Tourism Department has established a contact center in the base camp. The main objective of this contact center is to investigate all the activities of Everest Climbing during the whole season.

In this season of climbing, a total of 77 people have been appointed as contact officers in various mountains. These officers will stay to investigate the activities and manage the climbing activities. Climbers climbing mountains above 6,500 meters will have to take one of the contact officers with them.

New route for Expedition

A new route has been established for the Everest climbing expedition. According to the Tourism Department’s Director, Mr. Rakesh Gurung, a new route has been established near Lo Lah Peak. The old route was put to use in 2014. He added that due to the unstable conditions of snow and ice in many places throughout the old route, a new route was established from Camp 1 to Camp 2.

The number of Everest Climbers reaches 7,500

climbers heading towards everest

According to data published by the Tourism Department, since the first climb by Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary, the number of climbers who successfully climbed the mighty Everest has reached 7,626. The number of female climbers till 2023 is 519, while the number of male climbers is 7,107. The first woman to climb Mount Everest was Junko Tabei who conquered Everest in 1975 A.D. The first ever Nepalese woman to climb Everest was Pasang Lahmu Sherpa who did it in 1993 A.D.

In the last five years alone, 2,321 people have successfully climbed Mount Everest. The year and number of climbers in the last five years are as follows:

  • In 2018-560
  • In 2019-644
  • In 2020- (Everest climbing closed due to COVID-19)
  • In 2021-459
  • In 2022-648

(Data taken from Mountaineering in Nepal Facts and Figures 2023)

In the last few years, there has been a huge increase in the number of climbers in Everest. A huge number of permits have been issued for Everest climbing. Several factors, like accessibility, technological advancements, commercial expeditions, and cultural and social factors, are the reasons behind this. Also, the helicopter flights up to Everest base camp and above have also been increasing This increase in climbers has benefited a lot for tourism and local businesses. It has helped significantly in the economic upliftment of tourism in Nepal.

However, this increase in climbers has raised concerns about environmental degradation and overcrowding on the mountain. The increasing number of climbers has brought up problems like pollution, contaminated human waste, and traffic jams on the routes, endangering climbers’ safety and the environment as well as the delicate ecosystem of the Everest region.

Death in Everest

crevasse in mountain

Mount Everest presents very formidable challenges to its climbers. With its extreme altitude, harsh weather conditions, and difficult terrain, Everest is filled with many such difficulties. As a result, there are many cases of deaths on Everest.  In 1922 A.D., before the climb of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary, seven Sherpas lost their lives on Everest climbing expeditions. It is considered the first death on the Everest climbing expedition. Since then, more than 330 climbers have lost their lives on Everest climbing expeditions.

There have been many such events where climbers have lost their lives. The most deadly event occurred on April 25th, 2015. An earthquake of 7.8 magnitude resulted in the deaths of 19 people at base camp.

Survivors rate in Everest

The death rate in Everest climbing expeditions has been about 1% in the last 30 years, while the successful climb rate is 4%. So chances of death while climbing Everest are slim but not zero. The climbers should be well prepared and trained for the Everest climbing expedition. It would be a very big mistake to take Everest easily and lightly because of the low death rate.

Dead Bodies in Everest

According to the Climbing community, there are still almost 200 dead bodies in Everest. Some recent are nearly visible, while some old are covered in snow and lost. It is very common to walk over dead bodies on Everest climbing expeditions.

Recovering dead bodies from Everest is a very risky and expensive task. Bodies freeze down very quickly once you reach the upper section, known as the death zone. The task of recovering bodies demands very good weather conditions, which only last a little while.

Ascent vs Descent: Which is more dangerous?

A large number of accidents mostly happen while climbers are on the descent. The main reason behind this is exhaustion and fatigue that accumulate on the body while ascending. A large study looked at all the climbs up to 2006 and verified that more than half of the deaths happened during the descent. That being said, Everest climbing is not an easy task; it takes longer to make the climb, and there are also chances of fatal accidents and, in the worst case, death.

Causes of death in the Everest expedition

According to The Himalayan Database between 2010 and 2018, the most common cause of death among Everest climbers was avalanches. About 41% of total deaths occurred due to avalanches. 16% of deaths have occurred due to acute mountain sickness(AMS). 12% of the deaths have happened due to exhaustion. Equipment failure, falls, and hypothermia are also among the leading causes of death on Everest climbing expeditions.

There are lots of other causes of death that occur on Everest climbing expeditions. Climbers should have proper training and guidelines before starting the journey of climbing Everest. Listening to guides and taking advice from previous climbers will give lots of valuable insights for Everest climbing.

Conclusion

The policies and decisions that the Supreme Court has taken are for the benefit of the mountain environment. Many policies have been made in the past few years, considering Mount Everest’s well-being. Limiting the permits for Everest climbing and restricting helicopter flights over the Everest base camp will surely improve the degrading mountain health. But on the other hand, it will surely affect the tourism business.

In recent years, the number of Everest climbers has increased rapidly, resulting in great economic benefits. Also, tourists taking helicopter flights to Everest has been increasing lately. These increasing numbers will surely go down and bring economic benefits down with them, which isn’t good for future tourism businesses.

It would be better if the policymakers and tourism business personnel consulted with each other and made a decision that wouldn’t affect both parties. At the end of the day, both mountain health and the tourism economy are essential for Nepal.

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