Should previous experience be required before climbing Mount Everest? | The Tylt
Should previous experience be required before climbing Mount Everest?
In order to begin climbing Mount Everest in Nepal, hikers must obtain a permit. The Nepalese government awarded a record number of Everest climbing permits this year—381 to be exact—and it looks forward to awarding more in the future. NPR notes the current prerequisites for these permits:
Foreign climbers must pay a fee of $11,000 for a spring summit of Everest and provide a doctor's note attesting to their fitness.
According to government officials, bad weather during climbing season left just a few days for most climbers to summit. There are other factors beyond climbing permits for why the mountain seems overcrowded and particularly unsafe; permit numbers alone are not to blame.
According to Time, Nepal does not cap the number of permits it awards, nor does it control the pace of expeditions. Granted, Mount Everest is obviously a large mountain, but climbers only have a few weeks in which conditions are ideal for summiting. The more permits the government awards, the larger the pool of climbers trying to summit, leading to dangerous pileups. Time explains why pileups are so deadly:
Because of the altitude, climbers have just hours to reach the top before they are at risk of a pulmonary edema, when the lungs fill with liquid.
Waiting in line to reach the top of a mountain is a recipe for disaster. In order to avoid these crowds, governments should enforce prerequisites for climbers based off of their experience. Climbing Everest is an elite activity, not a bucket-list item for tourists.
Once only accessible to well-heeled elite mountaineers, Nepal’s booming climbing market has driven down the cost of an expedition, opening Everest up to hobbyists and adventure-seekers. Nepal requires climbers to have a doctors’ note deeming them physically fit, but not to prove their stamina at such extreme heights.
According to Time, the Mount Everest climbing industry provides major support for the Nepalese economy.
Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries, relies on the climbing industry to bring in $300 million each year.
Economic support should never come at the cost of human life, but the Nepalese side of the mountain has been open since 1985. As climbers and guides learn more about the mountain, more people want to attempt it themselves.
The recent narrative of overcrowding paints one side of the story for Everest this season. Safety should always be the top priority, but when it comes to implementing a cap on permits or requiring a certain amount of experience from climbers, Nepal must look at the full picture.
Expedition companies, which lead groups of climbers up dangerous peaks like Everest, require a certain amount of experience before climbers can join. CNN's Nicole Chavez spoke with Gordon Janow, a director at Alpine Ascents International, on the matter:
Most climbers spend months or even years before even thinking about making it to the Himalayas. Janow said his guides only take climbers to Everest who have successfully reached one or two other challenging peaks.
With this in mind, it's hard to believe that those issuing permits to climb Mount Everest would not do the same. Chavez confirmed that Nepal does not require climbing experience with Danduraj Ghimire, the director general of Nepal's Tourism Department:
While most expedition companies review their clients' experience before helping them get a permit, Nepal does not currently require proof of climbing experience for those climbing Everest, Ghimire said.