Mt Everest expeditions called off this season
The government today officially called off Mt Everest expeditions for the season.
"We have decided to cancel Mt Everest expeditions for this year," said director general of the Department of Tourism Tulsi Prasad Gautam.
The ministry decided to call off the Mt Everest expedition for the season as the team of icefall doctors and Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee – that are responsible for setting up the climing route – requested the Ministry of Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation on Tuesday to cancel the expeditions for the season.
The team of icefall doctors and the committee had officially informed that they are unlikely to set up the route – going by the situation at Base Camp and the Khumbu Icefall following the major earthquake on April 25 – in time.
The devastating earthquake on April 25 – and its aftershocks – triggered avalanches at Mt Everest making the expeditions more riskier. The avalanche killed 19 climbers, including five foreigners; many were injured, and damaged the routes too.
"The icefall doctors responsible for setting up the route up to camp II returned saying that it is difficult to set up the route in time for this season, he said, adding that the team responsible for setting up the route above camp II has also started to come back.
The committee has advised the ministry and stakeholders not to take further risks and halt expeditions for this season, chairman of the committee Ang Dorjee Sherpa said, welcoming the government's decision to cancel the expeditions.
The committee – in its statement on Tuesday – had said that it cannot take the risk of setting up a route in the current situation. "We took the decision on the basis of various factors including lack of enough time to establish the route to Camp II for this season," Sherpa said, adding that the possibility of an early monsoon – that has also made climbing impossible – apart from lack of adequate equipment and supplies.
Even if the icefall doctors set up the route till Camp II, the team responsible for setting up the route above camp II may not have sufficient equipment and human resources for rope-fixing, he added.
The expeditions have been delayed for this season due to devastating earthquake as in a regular spring seasons, climbers would already have been approaching the South Col by now," Sherpa said. "Now it won't be possible to set up the route in the limited time and press onwards."
Meanwhile, many climbers have already called off their expeditions and icefall doctors and Sherpas have also returned home as many of them have lost family members.
Likewsie, medical teams, including Himalayan Rescue Association, have also left Base Camp for this season. "It will be riskier to carry on without medical support as the risk of aftershocks and icefall is increasing," he added.
The committee has also prioritised removing avalanche debris from the camps, instead of forcing for climbing. "It will take a couple of weeks to clear the debris," Sherpa said.
Department of Tourism had this year permitted some 340 foreigners and 18 Nepalis – including 118 permits carried over from last year – and earned Rs 375 million in royalties.
Last year too, Mt Everest expeditions were called off after an avalanche – on April 18 – that has killed 16 mountain guides. The government had then extended last year's permits for five years.
Peak climbing is considered to be high-end tourism activity as it brings income to porters, kitchen staff, high-altitude guides and expedition and gear agencies. A guide on Mt Everest normally earns $6,000 to $7,000 during the three-month climbing season. Likewise, government also gets around $3.9 million in revenue annually in climbing fees, $3.5 million from Mt Everest alone.
Though it seems the devastating earthquake on April 25 seems to have hit the tourism sector hard, some travel trade entrepreneurs are still optimistic.
Tourism sector – that has multiplier effect on the economy with job creation and rural income – has been hit also due to damage of world heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley.
Every six tourists create one job in Nepal, and the tourism industry provides poor communities better access to revenues generated by the tourism market, according to Tourism Employment Survey 2014 of the Tourism Ministry.
The entrepreneurs – with government – have formed panel to work on after-earthquake strategy to attract tourists, though, some claim that damage to the tourism infrastructure and cultural sites would have a negative impact on the tourism economy and travelers will lose confidence in the long term.
Travel and tourism sector has contributed Rs 83.7 billion (4.3 per cent) to the GDP in 2014. The contribution was expected to increase to 5.4 per cent to Rs 88.2 billion this year 2015.