Nepal | November 15, 2019

Climbers recreating NASA study ski on Mt Everest illegally!

Making ‘a 10-year-old dream’ come true may cost American climbers dear

Rajan Pokhrel

(Left) A Facebook post by Willie Benegas and Matt Moniz after skiing from Camp III to Camp II on Mt Everest; Willie and Matt at Camp I after dropping their skis. Photos courtesy: Benegas Brothers Expeditions/Facebook

Kathmandu, May 6

Two American climbers who were part of a twin study research of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, made an illegal ski descent from Camp III to Camp II on Mt Everest last week, officials at the Department of Tourism said.

Willie Benegas and Matt Moniz reportedly skied down from 7,200m to 6,400m on May 2 without obtaining a ski permit from government authorities, Ram Prasad Sapkota, director at the DoT, told THT after receiving the information from Everest base camp. “The duo only obtained Everest climbing permit,” Sapkota said, adding that their ski attempt was illegal.

a screenshot taken from the Facebook posts of Willie Benegas.

After making a successful ski descent on the Lhotse face from Camp III, the climbers posted on Facebook, “We did it!” The Benegas Brothers Expeditions run by Willie Benegas also announced: “Well after 10 years dreaming about it, it happen (sic)! Managed to ski from Camp 3 Everest 7,200 meters to Camp 2 6,400m. Not much of difficulty but definitely good eyes needed to read the terrain, catching a ice-patch (sic) will be a bad thing to happen!”

DoT officials said they summoned representatives of the High Altitude Dream Pvt Ltd, a local agency which is handling Benegas Brothers Expeditions, to clarify about the climbers’ illegal descent on the world’s highest peak. “The agency representatives briefed us this afternoon that they were unaware of the incident,” Sapkota said.

According to him, climbers shall pay US$1,000 as royalty to obtain ski permit while the ski team must have a liaison officer to monitor their activities in the mountains. “The ski team also needs to deposit US$500 as garbage management fee at the DoT,” he said.

The DoT will initiate legal action against the climbers after a thorough investigation, Sapkota said. “Conducting illegal activities on mountains will land these climbers in soup,” he added. According to the country’s Mountaineering Expedition regulation, the government may ban a mountaineering expedition team or its member(s) from entering Nepal for up to five years or bar them from mountaineering in Nepal for up to 10 years for violating provisions of the act or rules framed thereunder or conditions specified in the permit.

Talking to THT, Kili Sherpa, managing director at High Altitude Dream Pvt Ltd, claimed that the climbers kept his company in the dark about their plan to ski on Mt Everest.

The climbers were at the base camp after making acclimatisation rotations in the high camps, a base camp official told THT over phone.

The two climbers plan to conduct molecular research on Mt Everest as part of the twin study project under the NASA. “Not just climbing, during the ascent, we’ll be collecting samples for a first of its kind genomic research project,” Moniz, who became the 14th American and youngest climber to summit Mt Makalu, having reached the top only seven days after scaling Mt Cho Oyu, told THT last month.

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A version of this article appears in print on May 07, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.


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