KATHMANDU, April 28: Everest climbers are likely to face a serious traffic problem on the slopes of the world’s highest mountain this spring.
A record number of people have received climbing permission from the tourism ministry for the spring climbing season.
As of now, 375 climbers have received permission from the Department of Tourism Management (DoTM), the body that handles the mountaineering industry.
The number of permits issued for Everest is the highest issued so far, according to tourism officials.
The spring climbing season has already started . Some climbers have reached Everest Base Camp for acclimatization. Climbing expedition firms are still lined up at the department for permission for still more climbers. So the number is likely to increase by another 10 or 12.
“We are worried at the big number of climbers receiving permission for Everest this year. Security personnel are being mobilized as liaison to help ease the climber traffic,” said Department Director General Dandu Raj Ghimire. “They should be able to manage the flow of climbers. So let’s hope there will be no traffic problem.”
Climbers already at Base Camp head higher up by the second week of May and then wait for a window of favorable weather to open up . Once the weather improves climbers and Sherpa guides push for the cherished summit .
The department, meanwhile, has no plans to ease the climber traffic.
According to the department, 322 climbers received permission for Everest in 2014. The number rose to 351 in 2015. Expeditions in 2014 and 2015 were cancelled. The expeditions for 2014 were cancelled after avalanche killed Sherpas taking essential climbing gear up the mountain.
The number of climbers dipped slightly in 2016. Sixteen Sherpa guides were killed at the Khumbu Icefall when an avalanche hit them as they were waiting to cross a ladder. In 2015, 19 climbers died in a massive avalanche at base camp triggered by earthquake .
Despite the back-to-back disasters, climbers have been risking life and limb and their numbers continue to surge.
Only 290 climbers received permission for Everest in 2016. In 2017 the number was 366 and in 2018 it was 346 .
According to Sherpa guides, the number of Everest climbers shot up in 2008 after China imposed a ban on climbing from the northern side in view of the Beijing Olympics. This time also, China has limited the number of climbers from the northern side.
Apart from the climbers, support staff also need to go to the higher camps with supplies and to fix tents. High-altitude Sherpa guides scale the mountain together with the climbers. The convergence of climbers, guides and support staff cause the traffic congestion .