by Kraig Becker
Following another busy and eventful spring season on Mt. Everest, the Nepalese government has announced that it will introduce new regulations to the world’s tallest mountain. These new rules are designed to not only provide support to expeditions but also raise the level of safety there as well. These moves come after a series of embarrassing events that brought unwanted attention to the peak, which routinely attracts hundreds of climbers on an annual basis.
The biggest change that climbers will see next season is a permanent government presence in Base Camp located at 5365 meters (17,600 feet). A team of government officials will remain there for the entire season, overseeing rescue operations, helping to maintain communications and enforcing regulations. It has become increasingly difficult for those operations to be conducted from Kathmandu and actually having someone on the mountain at all times will send a message to climbers that Nepal is serious about safety and security. Each climbing team is currently assigned a liaison officer who is suppose to handle those duties, but often times those liaisons never even step foot on the mountain.
Some of the new regulations are also designed to quell a growing movement amongst climbers to attempt some arbitrary new records on Everest as well. Mountaineers will now be required to announce their plans to set new records before they begin their expeditions rather than doing something unusual on the summit and then declaring it a record after the fact. This particular rule is not only to ensure safety on Everest but also maintain a measure of dignity. Some of the more recent “records” have not always reflected the spirit of mountaineering and Everest is viewed as a sacred place amongst the Nepali people.
Other new regulations will govern the use of helicopters in the region and the removal of trash from Everest. Helicopter flights to nearby peaks will now be prohibited unless they are conducting rescue operations. This will help prevent dangerous avalanches and bring a level of stability to the upper slopes. Stricter regulations on the removal of trash, something that is already taken very seriously, will help to improve environmental conditions too.
In recent years, expeditions to Everest have been criticized for being too commercialized which has led to overcrowding. Having government officials on the mountain to oversee operations won’t alleviate those crowds, but the hope is that it will make things safer all around. Only time will tell if these new measures will have the impact that is expected. The government in Nepal is notorious for making decrees but not following through on enforcement. But in this case, any efforts to make Everest safer and cleaner are to be applauded.
[Photo Credit: Kraig Becker]