Nepal govt permits autumn mountaineering despite pandemic-restrictions on tourism

KATHMANDU: The government has decided to allow a high-profile team to climb mountains in the autumn season though the foreign tourists have been restricted to visit the Himalayan nation due to COVID-19 pandemic.

A meeting of the council of ministers held on Sunday took a decision to allow a charter flight from Bahrain to Kathmandu boarding a team of high-profile members of the Bahrain Royal Guard expedition after September 15.

Following the Cabinet decision, a source at the Department of Tourism under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation confirmed that an 18-member team would attempt to climb Mt Manaslu (8,163 m) and Mt Lobuche (6,119 m) in the autumn season.

The expedition would be led by Prince Mohamed Hamad Mohamed Al Khalifa, the source said, adding that there would be 15 Bahrain nationals and three British citizens in the team. In Bahrain, the expedition is being coordinated by Prince Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

Mingma Sherpa, Chairman at the Seven Summit Treks, confirmed that his agency would be managing the high-profile military expedition in the autumn season. “We feel proud to be the local handling agency for the Royal Guard Expedition from Bahrain,” Sherpa said, adding that the royal expedition in Nepal's Himalayas would certainly spread a positive message in the mountaineering world.

“Our agency is fully prepared to handle the expedition by following all health and safety protocols in the times of COVID-19 crisis,” Sherpa said, the expedition would also help revive the country’s tourism sector which is now on its deathbed due to the global pandemic. The expedition would also support over 100 expedition staff including high-altitude climbing Sherpas who were worst hit by the COVID-19 lockdown, he added.

According to sources, the team is expected to arrive in Kathmandu on a private jet on September 16. “The members will certainly follow the quarantine rules and other safety protocols to commence the

expedition,” the sources added.

The expedition members would attempt to climb Mt Lobuche in the Khumbu region for acclimatization. “Then, the royal expedition will fly for Samagaun in the first week of October to begin climbing activities in the world’s eighth highest mountain in the western Nepal.”

According a DoT source, the team members include British nationals Richard Warren McConnel, Phillip Clough and Christopher Anothony.

Bahrain nationals in the team include Ebrahim Mohamed Abdulla Ebrahim Mohamed, Mohamed Ali Jasim Ahmed Alboainain, Arafat Hamood Naji Ghurbah, Ebrahim Khalil Ebrahim Zayed Mohamed Aljazzaf, Ahmed Said Ahmed Isa Alkabbi, Arif Feroz Shah Murad Qalunder Ghulam, Mohamed Adul Rahman Yusuf Alkawari, Khaled Ali Hasan Ebrahim Hasan Aldossery, Abdulaziz Rafea Abbar Khalaf Alabed, Khaled Sultan Mohamed Abdulla Alsheerwai, Murad Mohamed Yusuf Abdul Sayed, Ebrahim Ali Salem Jaber, Saud Hamad Mubarak Hamad Eid and Mohamed Isa Abdulla Yusuf Alqais.

Earlier, the Royal Guard team of Bahrain and expedition operator Seven Summit Treks initiated relief for climbers, guides and their families in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic taking away employment opportunities in different sectors of the economy. The Royal Guard team of Bahrain, in the first phase of support, provided rice, lentils, cooking oil, sugar, and salt to 151 families, Sherpa recounted.

The Royal Guard team also plans to climb Mt Everest in the upcoming spring season, according to Sherpa.