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A bypass for Everest: Nepal seeks to lure climbers to alternative mountains

Himalayan peaks could be leased to private tourism companies in an attempt to ease increasing congestion on Mount Everest, officials in Nepal have said.

The proposal would involve hiring out some of the 326 Himalayan peaks that are currently open to climbers in the poor south Asian country, in an attempt to lure mountaineers away from Everest.

The highest mountain in the world is suffering from traffic jams and environmental degradation as hundreds of mountaineers attempt its ascent in a short window of favourable weather in late spring every year. Hundreds of other peaks, many unclimbed, receive no attention.

The move is also designed to attract more climbers to the impoverished country, which depends on the revenue from tourism.

“We have begun discussion on leasing unclimbed peaks to the private sector, to promote these mountains as new tourism products,” said Mohan Krishna Sapkota, spokesman for the tourism ministry.

“We are open to both Nepalese and foreign private companies… We are confident that if the plan goes ahead, it will generate revenues for Nepal,” Sapkota told Agence France-Presse.

The proposal would need to be passed by cabinet to get the green light. If agreed, it may take several months before it is implemented.

The Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), a national body representing tourism promoters, welcomed the proposal, which it said would be “a very good step”.

“The private sectors can sell tourism products better in comparison to the government sector,” said Ang Tshering Sherpa, the NMA’s president.

“Private sector professionals have good networks worldwide and can bring more climbers and tourists to Nepal,” Sherpa said.

In recent weeks, Nepal has introduced a raft of measures to boost tourism and also allay concerns of overcrowding on Mount Everest.

Officials have slashed mountaineering fees for many other peaks while requiring each climber scaling Everest to bring back 8kg (17.6 lbs) of garbage in an attempt to clean up the “roof of the world”.

Last year, officials floated the idea of installing a ladder on the famous Hillary Step, a crucial stretch of technical climbing at nearly 8,840 metres (29,000ft) on Everest, named after its first climber, Sir Edmund Hillary.

Last year, more than 500 climbers reached the summit of Everest. On 19 May, around 150 climbed the last 915 metres to the peak within hours of each other, causing lengthy delays as mountaineers queued to descend or ascend harder sections.

Though such innovations as the ladder and the leasing plans are anathema to many purist climbers, some sherpas welcome them.

But Tashi Tenzing, grandson of the first climber to reach the summit of Everest, Tenzing Norgay, said the proposal went “completely against the spirit of mountaineering”.

“Mountains are there to be climbed by anyone,” he said. “It won’t make any difference to the number of people who want to climb Everest.”

An accomplished guide and mountaineer, Tenzing said he welcomed any move that would bring more climbers to lesser known peaks, and thus more funds to remote communities. But, he said, it would be better to promote such mountains overseas rather than lease them.

source: The Guardian, 11 Mar 2014

Climbing Everest made cheaper, despite overcrowding

Nepal will cut climbing fees for Mount Everest to lure more mountaineers to the world’s highest peak, already overcrowded during the peak climbing season.

Hundreds of foreign climbers, each paying thousands of dollars, flock to the 8850-metre Everest summit during the main climbing season stretching from March to May.

Under existing rules, Nepal charges $US25,000 ($A27,600) per climber as a licence fee, or royalty. But a group of seven people can secure a permit for $US70,000, a practice officials say encourages climbers to form big groups.

Tourism Ministry official Tilakram Pandey said each climber will be charged $US11,000 from next year to end the practice.
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“The change in royalty rates will discourage artificially formed groups, where the leader does not even know some of the members in him own team,” Pandey said.

“It will promote responsible and serious climbers.”

He said the new rates will apply for the peak season on the Southeast Ridge, or South Col, route pioneered by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953.

Permits for other routes and for the rest of the year, when the mountain is virtually deserted, will cost as little as $US2500 to encourage off-season climbing, officials said.

But experts said most mountaineers would still favour the spring season, because of warmer weather and more daylight, and the standard route.

Fees for hundreds of smaller peaks have also been changed.

ENTICING MORE CLIMBERS

Ang Tshering, who runs a hiking agency providing logistics to mountaineers, said incomes would not be affected as more climbers would be enticed to come despite the crowded mountain.

“Since more people will go to remotely located mountains, locals will get jobs and income,” he said.

More than 4,000 people have climbed Mount Everest since the historic 1953 ascent. Nearly 250 have died on its slopes.

Climbing historian Elizabeth Hawley said Everest was “terribly crowded” during the peak season. And allowing in those with no experience in serious climbing raised accident risks.

Sushil Ghimire, the Tourism Ministry’s most senior official, said the government was considering regulations obliging aspirants to climb lower peaks before attempting Everest.

With the rise in the number of climbers, pollution concerns have also increased.

But lower portions of Everst have undergone a clean-up as foreign and Nepali climbers have picked tonnes of discarded decades-old garbage – food cans, plastic, oxygen cylinders, torn tents, ropes and ladders, as well as human waste.

“There is still some garbage at higher altitudes and that is being collected by climbers during expeditions,” said Dawa Steven Sherpa, whose expeditions have collected 15 tonnes of rubbish since 2008.

He said better management of routes – fixing separate ropes for ascents and descents, and spreading permits over time – had helped reduce crowding last year.

Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, has more than 2000 Himalayan peaks and 326 are open to foreign climbers. Mountaineering is an important component of tourism that makes up about 4 per cent of the impoverished nation’s GDP.

source: The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 Feb 2014

Baltasar Kormakur starts shooting “Everest” in Nepalese foothills

Director Baltasar Kormakur has started shooting “Everest” in the Nepalese foothills of the world’s highest mountain for Universal Pictures, Walden Media and Cross Creek Pictures, Variety reported.

The action-adventure drama will recap the 1996 multi-expedition assault on Everest that left eight climbers dead. Jason Clarke (pictured above) is playing Rob Hall with Jake Gyllenhaal as Scott Fischer, Josh Brolin as Beck Weathers and John Hawkes as Doug Hansen.

The film will also shoot in the Italian Alps and at Cinecitta Studios in Rome and Pinewood Studios in the U.K. Universal will release “Everest” in North American theaters in 3D on Feb. 27, 2015.

Martin Henderson, Emily Watson, Michael Kelly and Thomas M. Wright also star. Producers are Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, Cross Creek’s Brian Oliver and Tyler Thompson, as well as Nicky Kentish Barnes.

Jon Krakauer’s bestseller “Into Thin Air” chronicled the commercial expeditions that were caught in a blizzard on the mountain. “Everest” had been adapted for the screen by Mark Medoff (“Children of a Lesser God”) and Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire”).

Source: PanARMENIAN.Net,13 Feb 2014

Travel News

Journey from the ‘roof of the world’

Restauranteur reaches new heights from humble beginnings

Legendary climber and explorer Sir Edmund Hillary was famous for the first ascent of Mt. Everest, but he was also a compassionate world citizen who left an admirable legacy of humanitarian deeds, particularly in Nepal.

Hillary and his Himalayan Trust constructed many airstrips, hospitals and schools in the Solo Khumbu (Everest) region. One such school is Shree Jana Sewa Ngi Ma Bhi Chouri Kharka, located in Gumela, Nepal.

Pemba Sherpa, owner of the Sherpa Cafe in Gunnison and Crested Butte, attended the school as a young boy. He met Hillary several times and his lasting image of the man is that he was a friendly giant — or “Bada Saab.”

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Everest trip to help kids in Nepal

A group of Illawarra adventurers will be doing more than taking in the gorgeous scenery when they head to Mount Everest’s base camp next March.

Their trip will raise money for the Himalayan Education Charity Foundation (HECF), an organisation that helps keep children who live near the mountains in school.

In Lukla, where the charity originated and where the trek begins, students are often pulled out of school so they can work to help their family financially. The HECF helps break the cycle of students not attending school by paying for school fees and supplies and assisting families with financial difficulties.

The trip has been organised by Brian King, an experienced Illawarra climber who has already tackled Mount McKinley in North America and Aconcagua in South America.

He will, at this stage, be joined by 11 others, most of whom have little experience with such trips. There are eight spots left on the trek.

The journey has attracted a number of Illawarra educators, with primary and secondary teachers and university lecturers making up half the group.

“They’ve related to the fact the HECF is mostly devoted to breaking the cycle of non-education in the area and trying to get the kids educated so they can return that education back into the local area,” Mr King said.

The group will stop at schools along the Everest trail as they make their way to the camp to meet the students, and are planning to donate second-hand books, laptops and other supplies to the schools. The proceeds from the trip go directly to the charity.

Mr King said the trek wasn’t overly challenging, likening the 18-day adventure to climbing the Illawarra escarpment.

For more information on the charity visit www.hecf.org.np.

Source & References

WALSH, K. 2013. Everest trip to help kids in Nepal. Illawarra Mercury, 11 December.

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