Climbers who skied on Everest in soup

  • DoT moots cancelling climbing permits of two American mountaineers

Kathmandu, May 8

The Department of Tourism today recommended to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation to cancel climbing permits of two American mountaineers for making an illegal ski descent from Camp III to Camp II on Mt Everest.

Recommending legal action against Willie Benegas and Matt Moniz who skied down from 7,200m to 6,400m on May 2 without obtaining a ski permit from government authorities, the DoT has sought the ministry’s approval to revoke climbing permits for Mt Everest and Mt Lhotse issued for the spring season.

According to sources, the DoT’s proposal sent to the ministry read that both climbers should be barred from scaling Mt Everest and Mt Lhotse this season as per Section 33 of the Tourism Act. “If the leader or any member of a mountaineering expedition team violates this act, rules framed hereunder or any matter contained in conditions of the permits for mountaineering, the government may revoke permits issued under this act,” the section states.

It adds, “If any special situation arises in order to revoke permission for mountaineering issued under this act, the government may at any time revoke such permission with or without showing reasons thereof.”

The DoT also concluded that the High Altitude Dream Pvt Ltd, a local agency which is handling Benegas Brothers Expeditions, be fined Rs 50,000 as per Section 38 of the act for instigating climbers to violate mountaineering rules. “The agency, however, claimed that it had no role in instigating climbers to ski illegally on Mt Everest,” an official said.

The expedition’s liaison officer, who never accompanied the climbers to the Khumbu region, and the expedition’s head will be warned against letting such lapses occur, DoT’s letter of recommendation read.

DoT’s Director Dinesh Bhattarai confirmed that he wrote to the ministry to take necessary action against the climbers and others involved in the incident as per the country’s Tourism Act.

According to him, DoT’s investigation has found their ski attempt in high camps illegal, as well as punishable. “The ministry will take a final call on the issue,” he added.

The DoT has already collected their passports and both have been told to suspend their expedition activities for now, a senior officer revealed.

In an email to the ministry secretary, the climbers, who claimed to recreate a twin study of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration by conducting molecular research on Mt Everest, said they didn’t have any intention of flouting Nepal’s mountaineering rules and regulations. The climbers claimed that they were unaware of the ski permit provision, a ministry official said, adding that they also reminded the ministry of their active involvement in the recovery work in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake. “Obviously they would have obtained a permit before or not skied if they had known about the regulations beforehand,” fellow climbers from the base camp said.

Willie has been running mountaineering expeditions in Nepal for over 20 years while Matt became the 14th American and youngest climber to summit Mt Makalu, having reached the top only seven days after scaling Mt Cho Oyu.