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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.

Go deeper

Mayors press Biden to adopt progressive immigration agenda

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A coalition of nearly 200 mayors and county executives is challenging Joe Biden and the incoming Congress to adopt a progressive immigration agenda that would give everyone a pathway to citizenship.

Why it matters: The group's goals, set out in a white paper released today, seem to fall slightly to the left of what the president-elect plans to propose on Inauguration Day — though not far — and come at a time of intense national polarization over immigration.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
19 mins ago - Health

Demand for coronavirus vaccines is outstripping supply

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Now that nearly half of the U.S. population could be eligible for coronavirus vaccines, America is facing the problem experts thought we’d have all along: demand for the vaccine is outstripping supply.

Why it matters: The Trump administration’s call for states to open up vaccine access to all Americans 65 and older and adults with pre-existing conditions may have helped massage out some bottlenecks in the distribution process, but it’s also led to a different kind of chaos.

Woman who allegedly stole laptop from Pelosi's office to sell to Russia is arrested

Photo: FBI

A woman accused of breaching the Capitol and planning to sell to Russia a laptop or hard drive she allegedly stole from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office was arrested in Pennsylvania's Middle District Monday, the Department of Justice said.

Driving the news: Riley June Williams, 22, is charged with illegally entering the Capitol as well as violent entry and disorderly conduct. She has not been charged over the laptop allegation and the case remains under investigation, per the DOJ.