Better safe than sorry

Published On: May 16, 2019 02:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

These are the best times for mountain climbing in Nepal, which is why a good number of climbers—foreigners and Nepalis alike—are waiting to scale the world’s highest peak Mt Everest and other mountains. According to a government data, total of 378 climbers have already obtained permission to climb Everest. Some 2,000 individuals from 48 countries are at Everest Base Camp. The level of participation in mountain climbing for other peaks such as Kanchenjunga and Dhaulagiri has also increased. Nepalis have also shown interest about mountain climbing in recent times.  In Myagdi, for example, Nirmal Purja, a former British Army personnel, has set out on a journey to climb all 14 mountains above 8000 meters, within a time span of just seven months, with the the goal of creating a new world record. Reportedly, Purja has succeeded in climbing Mt Dhaulagiri (8167 meters), the seventh highest peak from the southern side without supplemental oxygen. According to the Department of Tourism Management, a team of six Nepalis have already scaled Mt Kanchenjunga. Mountain climbing is one of the favorite adventure sports for foreigners visiting Nepal. They risk their lives to set the record and to gain lifetime experience.

Some experienced Nepali climbers who scaled Mt Everest have fixed the ropes to pave the way for other summiteers. And Sherpas have fixed ropes for Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu as well. Traditionally, Sherpas fix ropes to the summit, set up tents at the higher camps and stockpile food, oxygen and other essentials for the foreign climbers. But as expeditions after expeditions have started, the government and Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation must also be mindful of the measures to take in case of eventualities like avalanche and other disasters.  It is particularly so because climate change effect has already rendered our mountains vulnerable to weather shocks. Weather across the country has become erratic over the last few months.  Storm, lightening and rain have become more frequent this season than in the past.  Besides, we already have the number of records of deadly avalanche killing mountain climbers.  In April, 2014, for example, an avalanche sweeping down Mount Everest killed around 18 climbers, including 12 Nepali guides. The Nepali guides were fixing ropes and cracking snow and ice to carve out a route for foreign climbers. Only October last year, five South Koreans and four Nepali guides were killed after a huge block of ice crashed over a cliff into a narrow mountain gorge, while they were attempting to climb Mount Gurja.

Measures need to be taken to make mountain climbing safe and healthy.   Pollution and waste disposal has emerged as the challenges in our Himalayas. While maintaining cleanliness and reforming the system to make mountain climbing economically rewarding for Nepal’s tourism industry and thrilling and exciting for the foreigners are vital, the focus at the moment should be on safety measures for the climbers and keep the rescue teams equipped with logistics, just in case something unpleasant happens. Communication system and our early warning system need to be kept well and functioning. It is equally important to ensure that our rescue team is standing alert.  Mountain climbing is an important source of revenue for the government. It is also the vital tool to brand Nepal’s tourism. If we also keep our safety measures, warning system, weather detection patterns and rescue systems alert, we can keep the brave climbers out of possible harm. 

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