The crisis in Himalayan mountain ranges has become worse this summer with death of over 20 climbers at an altitude of 8,000 metre and above. The climbers who have lost their lives include nationals of the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Chile, and India.
It is to be noted that Indians, overtaking the Americans, now make up the biggest group of the Everest permit holders. According to the Department of Tourism, Nepal, 80 Indian climbers received the permit to scale the highest mountain peak of Himalayas and four of them died this year on different peaks due to different reasons. The number of Indian climbers in 2018 as per the Nepal government was 59.
This year has witnessed the highest number of casualties of Indians in the Himalayan mountains after 1985 when five soldiers of the Indian army had lost their lives in an expedition de Everest.
The government of Nepal has issued a total number of 381 permits this year to the climbers and to more than 600 people including climbers, Sherpas and local guides scaling the tallest mountain peak.
What Mountaineers Say
Aditya Gupta, a Delhi-based businessman, who has recently returned from a successful Mount Everest expedition, told NewsClick that he is also not sure of what steps need to be taken by the government to stop overcrowding on the Everest.
“There is only one Mount Everest in the world. So, there is so much charm in it. This problem can only be solved through self-regulation, and it should not be left to only the government, as Nepal’s much revenue comes from this sector,” said Gupta.
“If only 381 people apply for scaling the mountain, then you can understand how hard the Everest expedition is. The Nepal government should immediately work on making strict rules for the Sherpas, as they tend to be more corrupt and irresponsible. Sherpas work as guides, but I have seen many Sherpas leave their clients in the middle of the expedition, and this attitude is costing people their lives,” he added.
According to Karma Tenzing, another mountaineer who has successfully summited the Everest this season, wrote on Twitter: “Traffic Jam or Overcrowding on one day is an yearly phenomenon, so it is not at all the issue. The real problem is in experience, overconfidence, not obeying the sherpas, weak physical fitness and being ill-prepared for the summit (sic).”
Basu Pandey, an Indian climber, who runs a training camp for the climbers in Pithoragarh district, says that apart from overcrowding, there are many other reasons behind increasing number of deaths of the climbers.
“The first thing is that one has to learn to respect the mountains first. One never summits the peak. But a mountain allows you to summit and scale. The government should first ensure that only experienced people are given the permit for the expedition and the apex bodies should make sure that climbers pass a very high-level test programme before they apply for the expedition,” he said.
Pandey further said that government should identify the Sherpas and regulate the private expedition adventure agencies who hire the Sherpas and lure foreign mountaineers.
“There are a lot of Sherpas who are not that experienced and they fail in saving their clients. The maximum number of deaths have occurred while the mountaineers were climbing down the mountain. Somewhere, the Sherpas have failed in training their clients and in teaching them strategies to be used while going up and while coming down,” said Pandey, adding that these people end up disturbing the ecosystem.
The avalanches in the Himalayan ranges have become very common these days. An avalanche is the reason eight foreign climbers are feared dead on the Nanda Devi Mountain peaks, Pandey believes.
He further said that fewer number of windows are available for the expedition, which is also responsible for overcrowding.
“This season, only six of the 12 windows were accessible because of the inclement weather conditions. This is one of the causes for overcrowding,” he said.
Nepal contemplates corrective measures
According to the highly placed sources in the Ministry of Tourism, Nepal, the government is contemplating measures to ensure adequate fitness of the climbers before issuing the permits. The sources said that the Ministry is of the view that the medical check-up of the climbers should be conducted at different levels. There is also a plan to make the climbers take an advance climbing course before the expedition.
The government of the Himalayan nation has, however, kept quiet on decreasing the numbers of permit and has denied overcrowding on the mountains to be a reason for the spike in number of deaths this season.