Amid concerns of a second wave of the pandemic with a much deadlier variant of the coronavirus battering the economy, the Department of Tourism (DoT) has issued the highest number of expedition permits for Mount Everest this year.

According to the department, 394 people from 42 teams have received permissions to climb Mt Everest in the spring season of this year. Among the permit recipients, 90 are women. In 2019, 381 people had taken permissions to climb Mt Everest. Meanwhile, in 2020 expeditions had been halted due to the pandemic.

The government has collected more than Rs 477.7 million in royalties from climbers this year. Notable climbers have also taken permissions to climb other mountains in Nepal. So far, 689 people from 79 teams have taken permissions to scale 16 mountains.

The country had made international headlines in 2019 for congestion near the summit of Mt Everest due to overcrowding. Hence, the climbers will be divided in groups and will have to wait for their turn to ascent the world's highest peak this year, the department has stated. The department has made arrangements for the climbers on the basis of their permit numbers.

After the ropes are fixed to pave the way to summit Mt Everest, the department has made arrangements to allow climbers with permit numbers below 40 to attempt the ascent in the first favourable weather. Following their descent, climbers with permit numbers below 72 will be allowed to ascent Mt Everest, followed by those with permit numbers above 72. The arrangements have been made to ensure that the number of climbers do not exceed 170 at one time.

Meanwhile, for the first time, the government doctors have been stationed at the Everest Base Camp and are providing health services to the climbers and their supporters. This year, two doctors assigned by the department and one doctor from the Himalayan Rescue Association are providing services. They will stay at the base camp throughout the climbing season and provide treatment to climbers and their supporters.

The climbing season of this year, however, has also been shrouded in uncertainty after it was revealed that the two climbers who were recently rescued from the Everest Base Camp due to altitude sickness had tested positive for the coronavirus. The DoT, however, had denied any knowledge of the news.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 26, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.