Kathmandu, December 2
The Department of Tourism today wrote to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation to initiate legal action against American explorer Sean Burch, who claims to have scaled 31 virgin mountains in Humla district in 21 days without obtaining climbing permit from the government.
In a letter to MoCTCA Secretary Shankar Prasad Adhikari, DoT’s Director General Jaya Narayan Acharya stated that Burch hadn’t followed due procedures of mountain climbing while scaling Humla peaks.
Since Burch, known for setting numerous world records on adventure and fitness, has already flown to the US, MoCTCA will have to coordinate with other ministries, including Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs to take necessary action against the explorer, Acharya told this daily.
According to him, DoT has also sought necessary details from the Department of Immigration regarding Burch’s entry into, and exit from, the country on different occasions.
Though DoI does not have the mandate to issue climbing permits, Burch claimed that he scaled all Humla peaks between October 11 and 31 by obtaining DoI permission to enter restricted areas in Humla.
In separate clarification letters sent today by DoT’s Mountaineering Section, officials at the District Development Committee, Karnali Tourism Promotion and Development Committee and District Health Office have been asked to state within seven days the ground on which officials recognised Burch’s climbs.
Issuing official letters, the district-based government officials had acknowledged that Burch set a new world record for making the most first ascents of unclimbed mountains in Nepal.
“DDC officer Roshan Pun, KTPDC Chairman Shiva Raj Sharma and DHO’s acting chief Dhan Bahadur Bohora have been asked to clarify in writing why they acknowledged Burch’s ‘new world record’ using official letterheads,” Acharya said, adding that only DoT can recognise mountain climbing in the country.
According to him, the ministry will also coordinate with the concerned agencies to probe alleged involvement of the Nepal Trust, as the British NGO announced Burch’s ‘record ascent’ in Humla mountains.
DoT also received details from Tourist Police regarding Burch’s claims.
Police findings revealed that the ‘multiple-record-holder’ had not followed mountaineering rules while scaling virgin peaks — Kangnun Himal, Chandi Himal (6,142m), Changla Himal (6,563m) — and traversing valley regions of the mid-western district. “DoT has already questioned Tailored Treks that assisted Burch to scale Humla peaks,” Acharya said.
According to the country’s Tourism Act, the government shall ban a climber for up to 10 years from visiting country for mountaineering activities for the violation of country’s mountaineering regulation.
“If any mountaineering expedition team or its member scales any Himalayan peak not opened for mountaineering, the government may impose a fine thrice the royalty amount to be paid for scaling the highest Himalayan peak opened for mountaineering; the offender will have to pay twice the highest royalty for scaling an opened peak without permit,” states the Tourism Act.
DoT charges the highest royalty of $11,000 per climber for scaling Mt Everest.
— Sean Burch (@SeanBurch) November 14, 2016
— Sean Burch (@SeanBurch) November 30, 2016
Apart from taking legal action against Burch, DoT will also coordinate with the administrative and security organs to thoroughly monitor activities of foreigners to curb such illegal activities in the Himalayas, the director general said.
A version of this article appears in print on December 03, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.