Nepal marks 1st Everest ascent amid debate over permits

Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries, takes in $300 million each year from climbing

Nepal commemorated the anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest on Wednesday amid a climbing season marred by the highest death toll in four years and a debate on whether the government should limit permits to prevent dangerous overcrowding on the world’s highest peak.

READ MORE: Victoria man recounts Everest ascent

Government officials said at an event in Kathmandu celebrating the successful climb of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953 that there were no plans to cap permits. Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries, takes in $300 million each year from climbing.

A record number of 381 permits were issued this year. Eleven people have died on Everest, including nine in Nepal, likely due to altitude sickness, which is caused by low amounts of oxygen at high elevation and can lead to headaches, vomiting, shortness of breath and mental confusion.

Because of the altitude, climbers have just hours to reach the top before they are at risk of a pulmonary edema, when the lungs fill with liquid causing respiratory failure. Mountaineers described traffic jams caused by exhausted rookies in the “death zone,” the final phase of the ascent from Camp Four at 8,000 metres (26,240 feet) to the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak.

The nine deaths this year on Nepal’s side of the mountain included Don Cash, a sales executive from Utah, and Christopher Kulish, an attorney from Colorado, who both died on their way down from the summit.

Kulish, 62, had just reached the top with a small group, according to his brother, Mark Kulish. That earned him a place in the “Seven Summit Club” of mountaineers who have reached the highest peaks on every continent, his brother said.

Cash, 55, who also joined the Seven Summit Club with his climb, collapsed at the top and was given CPR and massages by his two Sherpa guides. He got up only to fall again in the same way at Hillary Step, the first cliff face down from the summit.

Two other climbers – from Ireland and Austria – died on the northern side of the mountain in Chinese territory, according to media reports.

On Wednesday, Nepalese government minister Gokul Prasad Baskota said the congestion on Everest wasn’t due to the mismanagement of climbing permits but rather the inadequate training of some climbers.

Renowned mountaineer Um Hong-gil of South Korea, who was honoured by the Nepal government at the event commemorating the 66th Everest anniversary, said the number of climbers should be scaled back and only those with proper training and experience should be allowed.

“There should definitely be less permits issued and more experienced climbers on Everest,” Um said.

He said the endeavour — once only possible for well-heeled elite mountaineers — has changed greatly since he first climbed Everest in 1988, in part because of advanced weather forecasting technology that more accurately predicts clear conditions, leading to pileups at the peak.

“Many people are now taking climbing Everest very lightly and as entertainment only, which they think they can do without much training,” Um said.

The Nepal Mountaineering Association, an umbrella body of expedition operators, said it would push the government to require climbers to adequately prepare for what Um described as an extremely taxing physical and mental task.

“The government needs to come up with strict policies to control the inexperienced climbers from attempting to scale Everest,” said the association’s president, Santa Bir Lama.

Lama also faulted private trekking companies that are more focused on expanding their client base than safety.

He also said that government permits, which are often issued to climbers just days before their expeditions, should be issued months in advance to give climbers time to fully prepare.

A climber from Kashmir who returned to Kathmandu after a failed attempt on Everest agreed that there should be a standard that climbers must meet.

“People just throw the cash and get a permit to climb Everest because there are no criteria,” said Rizza Alee. “Lots of people I saw were inexperienced.”

Expedition operators said they do vet climbers’ experience and ability before signing up them up and that even seasoned mountaineers sometimes lose their lives on Everest.

“In the mountains it is always unpredictable,” said Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summits Treks, one of the biggest expedition companies in Nepal.

Sherpa said the government cannot limit the number of permits because of the lasting draw of the world’s highest peak.

“People from all over the world would want to come visit Everest and that cannot be stopped,” he said.

Binaj Gurubacharya, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Liberal Party candidate acclaimed for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola

Mary Ann Murphy will be acclaimed at a celebration tonight

Green Party announces candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country

Travis Ashley will challenge incumbent Liberal MP in October’s federal election

Online registration to speed up evacuee processing in Okanagan

Central Okanagan district tests province’s streamlined emergency management digital self-registration

Civil suit brought against Kelowna RCMP officer after ‘abhorrent’ interrogation

The woman involved in the 2012 interrogation is suing the officer and B.C.’s Minister of Justice

Missing Kelowna man found

Albert Henry Johns had been reported missing on June 14 after last being seen May 31

Locked in for love at the Kelowna BC SPCA

Kelowna celebrities get locked in for love at the BC SPCA

’When thunder roars, go indoors’: How to keep safe before lightning strikes

Each year, an estimated 10 deaths and as many as 164 injuries are lightning-related

Doors opened to the new pediatric oncology room at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

After $90,000 dollars was raised children now have a private place for treatment

VIDEO: After 73 years, siblings separated by adoption reunite in B.C

Donna Smith of Abbotsford and Clayton Myers of Williams Lake are glad they met each other

B.C.-born Carey Price brings young fan to tears at NHL Awards banquet

Anderson Whitehead first met his hockey idol after his mother died of cancer

Licence issue delays boozing while cruising on BC Ferries

Planned June launch for alcohol sales delayed

B.C. school mourns after 13-year-old killed by fallen tree on field trip

Teenager died after being struck and pinned by tree while on a field trip near Sooke

Penticton family honours loved one with acts of kindness, free coffee

The family of Kathy Castle want to ensure she is remembered by the community

Most Read