Climbing Sherpas ask govt to allow American skiers to climb Everest, Lhotse

KATHMANDU: At a time when the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has been reviewing a proposal sent by the Department of Tourism demanding action against two American mountaineers, more than 150 climbers today appealed the government not to cancel their climbing permits issued for Mt Everest and Mt Lhotse this season.

In a letter sent to the minister, secretary and DoT’s director general, the climbing Sherpas also asked the government to allow Willie Benegas and Matt Moniz to continue their bids on Mt Everest and Mt Lhotse, saying that they had not posed any threat to the country’s mountaineering sector by skiing down from Camp III to Camp II on Mt Everest.

Willie and Matt have landed in soup after the duo made ski descent from the higher camp on Mt Everest without having a ski permit, on May 2. The DoT has already recommended action against climbers seeking the ministry’s approval to revoke their climbing permits issued for Mt Everest and Mt Lhotse this season.

“We will support the government if it takes action against anything illegal on the mountains, but in the case of Willie’s short ski descent, we all thought that giving punishment to Willie is not a fair decision of the government since Willie has been coming to Nepal over the past 20 years and supporting Nepal’s economy by bringing many tourists. He has also created jobs for many Nepali climbers, guides and porters,” a letter sent to the government authorities read.

Besides bringing many tourists to Nepal and supporting Nepal’s tourism economy, Willie also has huge contribution in providing numerous rescue and first aid trainings to Nepali climbers on Mt Everest, the letter adds. “Willie and his brother Damian have both been actively involved in rescuing many climbers and saving their lives on Mt Everest while Willie himself has a lot of respect and love for Nepal and Nepali people,” it said.

The climbers would have obtained a permit or not skied if they had known about the regulations beforehand, the climbing sherpas stated, claiming that they were fully unaware of the ski permit provision.

“Banning the legendary climbers from Nepal would mean a huge loss to Nepal’s economy as Willie’s regular staff will lose their jobs and Nepal will also lose the tourists who would come here for climbing and trekking under Willie and Damian’s leadership.”

As the climbers have already admitted to their mistake, Willie and Damian both deserve huge appreciation from the government for their heroic support in rescue, earthquake relief work and 20 years of continuous support to the country's economy by bringing many tourists, the climbers further noted.

According to DoT, Willie has led an international expedition of nine climbers for Mt Everest this season. “Willie has been awarded Kumar Khadga Bikram Adventurous Award by the Nepal Mountaineering Association in 2011.”