KATHMANDU: Novice climbers could be banned from attempting to climb Mount Everest, under Nepalese plans to confront safety and overcrowding concerns.
The proposals, which would also involve banning disabled and elderly climbers from the mountain, come after 18 people were killed last April at Everest’s base camp in an avalanche that was triggered by the Nepal earthquake.
The regulations could have a negative impact on a major source of revenue for the impoverished country, which generates millions of dollars through selling climbing permits.
Every year about 600 climbers go to Nepal with the intention of taking on Everest, and in recent years, there has been an increase in the number of novices, relying heavily on guides to scale the 29,000ft (8840m) summit. So-called “tourist climbers” cause concern among experienced mountaineers.
The new rules would prohibit those who had not scaled a mountain of at least 21,000ft (6400m), according to Govinda Karki, the head of Nepal’s tourism department.
“Such a rule is going to be introduced to maintain the glory of Everest,” said Mohan Krishna Sapkota, acting secretary of the ministry of tourism. He said that now “everyone is going to Everest”, levels of risk for all involved had become much higher.
“The Everest summit should be dignified and an issue of glory, so for that the ministry is working on introducing some limits,” Sapkota said.
Kripasur Sherpa, the country’s tourism minister, said he hoped to implement the rules before spring: “We cannot let everyone go on Everest and die. If they are not physically and mentally fit it will be like a legal suicide.”
Officials were also said to be seeking to limit the highest peaks of the Himalayas to climbers aged between 18 and 75. People under 16 are not allowed to climb Everest, but there is no upper age limit.
Last week the Japanese climber Junko Tabei, who in 1975 became the first woman to climb Everest, said overcrowding was causing environmental issues.
“The more the number of climbers, the more human waste and garbage that are left on the mountain. This causes problems,” she said.
Many tourists who visited Everest this year did not attempt to scale the mountain because of the avalanche.
Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all but essential travel to Everest, to the frustration of tour operators. Since the earthquake, which killed nearly 8,900 people, no one has yet climbed the mountain.
Nobukazu Kuriki, a Japanese mountaineer who lost eight fingers and a thumb to frostbite on Everest in 2012, had to give up on his latest attempt on Sunday, saying he “wouldn’t be able to come back alive”.