A day before the spring climbing season begins in the country, the government decided to extend the climbing permits of 103 different expeditions by two more years, waiving the permit fee for all 801 world climbers who had abandoned their expeditions last spring following the devastating April earthquake.
According to Minister for Information and Communications and spokesperson of the government Sherdhan Rai, a meeting of the Council of Ministers has approved a proposal tabled by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation seeking an amendment to the existing mountaineering regulation that ensures a two-year extension to the climbing permits, which were issued for 32 mountains in the last spring season.
The government’s decision solely aims to support the country’s mountaineering sector which was worst hit by multiple disasters in the last two consecutive years, MoCTCA secretary Prem Kumar Rai told this daily. He said that today’s decision was made by taking consent from finance and law ministries.
The decision will come into force immediately after publishing the same in the gazette in a day or two. “The expedition teams can apply at the Department of Tourism to validate their old permit anytime within 2017 but they need to give at least two weeks to the Department of Tourism for further processing of their documents,” the decision reads.
At least 801 climbers including 265 members on Mt Everest had cancelled their expeditions on different mountains after the devastating earthquake struck the country in April 25 killing nearly 9,000 people.
The world’s highest peak which was hit by an avalanche in 2014 killing 16 Nepali guides also witnessed a massive avalanche triggered by the earthquake in its base camp where 19 mountaineers were buried last April.
The mountaineering fraternity has welcomed the government’s move. National Tourism Promotion Committee member Nima Nuru Sherpa said the decision will certainly facilitate climbers who are planning their expeditions in the coming season. “Nepal is well prepared to welcome climbers in the spring season,” Sherpa, owner of Kathmandu-based Cho-Oyu Trekking, added.
Navin Trital, Managing Director at Expedition Himalaya, whose company also works with US-based Altitude Junkies and Mountain Trip termed the permit extension as a positive step to welcome more foreign climbers and it was equally supportive of the international operators to finalise their expeditions for the spring season.
Executive committee member of Trekking Agents Association of Nepal Wangchu Sherpa informed that the decision would help all stakeholders to promote the country’s tourism in the world market.
According to Gyanendra Shrestha, an official at DoT’s mountaineering section, only four Mt Everest expeditions, including a 14-member team led by an Austrian climber have notified the department that they would be applying for spring climbing till date.
DoT charges each foreign climber of US$ 11,000 to issue a climbing permit for Mt Everest in the spring season while permit fee varies for other mountains according to their height and location.
A version of this article appears in print on March 01, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.