May 30, 2019

Nepali government rejects blame for Everest deaths

Mountaineers on Everest in 2009. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Nepal rejects claims that recent deaths on Mount Everest resulted from overcrowding or government negligence, a government spokesman tells Axios.

Why it matters: Nepali authorities are under pressure to limit the number of permits issued for mountaineers to climb the 29,028 foot peak after the 11 recent deaths, 9 of which came on the Nepali side of Everest. Nepal doesn’t place strict limitations on who can attempt the climb.

  • A record 381 permits were issued this season during a narrow window of improved weather. With support teams, there were upwards of 600 total climbers, per the BBC.
  • The New York Times described “a crowded, unruly scene reminiscent of Lord of the Flies” near the summit, and reported that climbers were left exposed to the elements for extended periods due to overcrowding.
  • This has been the 4th deadliest climbing season on record. The deadliest came in 2015 when a massive earthquake triggered an avalanche.

Nepali Minister for Information and Communication Gokul Prasad Baskota tells Axios that climbing Everest is “a life threatening adventure” and the government should not be blamed for accidents that occur in such an unpredictable environment.

  • Baskota said the government would work to improve weather forecasts and look into other possible precautions, but said climbers and tour guides should ensure their own fitness and training.

The bottom line: Nepal is home to 8 of the world’s 10 highest peaks and mountaineering is vital to the country's tourism industry, with $5 million flowing directly to the government last year, and many other sectors benefiting.

  • Climbers eyeing Everest pay around $45,000 to expedition companies on average, and some pay much more. Around $11,000 goes to the Nepali government for permits.
  • With all that money involved, there is stiff competition to bring clients to the top of the world. Now, calls for stiffer regulations are growing louder.
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