Nepal is safe for tourists, says noted mountaineer

Dikshya Thakuri

Kathmandu, April 27:

George Band, the first person to scale Mt Kanchanjunga, feels that Nepal is a safe destination for tourists. He hopes that the warring factions will be able to resolve the country’s pressing problems at the earliest.

“I seriously urge the government and the Maoists to resolve the problems soon since Nepal’s economy depends largely on foreign visitors and tourists,” Band told The Himalayan Times. Nepalis, according to him, are very ‘welcoming’ and he is looking forward to celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the first ascent of 8586-metre high mountain.

“I feel very lucky to be physically fit at this age,” said the seventy-six-year-old mountaineer.

He is going on a three-week trekking to Kanchanjunga Base Camp on Saturday and will be back just in time for the celebration that is scheduled to begin from May 23-25. For him, the trek to Kanchanjunga will be a nostalgic journey.

Band, a British citizen, scaled the world’s third highest peak along with Joe Brown, Norman Hardy and Tony Streather, on May 25, 1955. However, they stopped short of climbing the top by twenty feet to respect the locals’ feelings.

A nine-member British expedition team led by Charles Evans went to Sikkim in 1955 and asked for the authorities’ permission to scale the peak.

Initially the rulers were reluctant to allow them to attempt the ‘holy’ peak but they ultimately agreed after the team members vowed not to conquer the summit.

Since the team climbed the peak from the North-West Face of Nepal, there was really no reason for them to seek Sikkim’s consent but they did so ‘out of respect’. The mountain was untouched for 22 years after the first ascent.

The Indian army’s expedition team, however, attempted the peak in 1977 but they too stopped short of the top. The third highest mountain lies on Nepal-India border in Taplejung district.

Band was the youngest team member of the 1953 Everest expedition team led by John Hunt but he did not conquer the summit.