Everest liaison officers certify summit without visiting base camp

Kathmandu, July 6

As many as 15 of the 32 liaison officers designated by the government are found to have breached the regulation while recommending Everest summit certificates to climbers this season.

Without even making it to the Everest base camp, the 15 liaison officers, ranging from non-gazetted first class to under-secretary positions, are found to have attested 225 climbers - 103 foreigners and their 122 climbing Sherpas - as eligible for summit certificates, according to a report prepared by base camp officials.

According to the Tourism Act, each liaison officer must accompany the designated expeditions and climbers through the expedition, which could take roughly three weeks. That means the LOs are required to stay in the base camp full circle for a period of two-three weeks from start to the end of the summit.

In return, an Everest expedition pays its liaison officer between US$2,500-US$3,000 in appreciation of the services and support extended to the climbing summiteers. Their job as LO ends once they recommend to the Department of Tourism for summit certificates for individual climbers.

Of the 17 LOs who reached the base camp, six returned the same day and five stayed for two to four days, according to the report. The remaining six -- an official from the DoT, three security personnel and two from Everest Summiteers Association — stayed at the base camp for over two weeks.

At the Department of Tourism, however, the 15 LOs in question claimed to have stayed at the base camp for up to three weeks in order to prohibit the expedition teams or their members from indulging in any ‘unauthorised activity’.

Ganesh Prasad Timsina, an officer at Kakarvitta tourism office, recommended summit certificates to Dinesh Chandrakant Rathod and his wife Tarkeshwari Chandrakant Bhelerao, both police constables from Maharashtra, approving their morphed photos. He had also left the base camp on June 14, the day he arrived there. This record contradicts his claim of staying at the base camp for 13 days from May 3.

“It’s not just Timsina. Members of at least 16 teams on Mt Everest expedition and seven others on Mt Lhotse and Mt Nuptse never got to see their LOs at base camp this season,” a base camp manager said. According to him, most of the expedition teams were able to meet their LOs either during the period of pre-briefing or debriefing.

“These facts are true as well as alarming,” DoT’s Director General Sudarshan Prasad Dhakal admits. There was need to review the existing procedures of deploying LOs, he said, adding that the DoT would revise the Tourism Act soon to make LOs more accountable.