The Kathmandu Post, Sangam Prasain, 3rd May 2017, Kathmandu
Nearly 800 Everest hopefuls are waiting to take advantage of a good weather window with the 2017 spring climbing season expected to begin in the next two weeks.
According to the Tourism Department, 367 fee-paying climbers have received permits to make an attempt on the world’s highest peak this spring. This is the highest number of climbing permits issued for Everest during a single season.
Mountaineering officials expressed fears that the record number of climbers on Everest this season could lead to dangerous overcrowding on the mountain.
With each climber hiring at least one local climbing guide, the total number of climbers is likely to touch 800 this season, said Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA).
Considering the large number of Everest aspirants waiting for a chance to mount a bid for the summit, a ‘traffic jam’ on the slopes cannot be ruled out this year. “It will depend on the weather. If the weather does not behave well, all climbers could scramble to climb the peak during a short weather window causing a traffic jam.”
He said that Everest was likely to see a record number of climbers this season due to a backlog resulting from the 2014 and 2015 avalanches.
The world’s highest peak was closed for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015 due to deadly avalanches. On April 18, 2014, an avalanche on Everest near Everest Base Camp killed 16 Nepali guides.
The government had extended the Everest climbing permits of those climbers who were forced to abandon their bids in 2014 until 2019. That year, 326 mountaineers had received climbing permits.
Then in 2015, avalanches set off by the devastating April 25 quake killed 19 climbers, including high altitude guides and helpers at the base camp and Khumbu Icefall.
This time, the government extended the permits to climb Everest for two years until 2017.
Last year, 289 mountaineers received climbing permits. The government charges $11,000 per foreign climber and earns nearly $3.5 million in revenues from Everest annually.
“If the weather becomes favorable, Everest could see a record number of climbers succeeding this year,” said Sherpa. According to him, the success rate on Everest has been increasing due to skilled manpower and organized rope-fixing or preparation of the route. “Since the last few years, the success rate of climbing Everest has been 60 to 70 percent.”
Gyanendra Shrestha, an official of the Tourism Ministry, said that almost all climbers had reached Everest Base Camp. There are around 2,000 people including climbers, government officials, expedition guides and kitchen staff at base camp.
“Icefall doctors, a dedicated team of local climbers who prepare the route up Everest, have completed the route up to Camp IV (8,000 metres),” he said. Camp IV is the final camp from where climbers make the summit bid.
“As per the routine, if the weather behaves well, route preparation work up to the summit might be completed by May 10,” said Shrestha.
More than 4,000 people have scaled Everest since 1953. Over 300 climbers have died attempting to the scale the world’s tallest peak.