Nepal hikes insurance for liaison officers, says no to chopper-aided mountain summit

KATHMANDU: Starting 2018, a mountaineering expedition team will have to pay more for the life insurance cover of its liaison officer to attempt to climb Nepal’s mountains including Mt Everest, according to a new mountaineering expedition regulation.

The newly revised regulation states that the insurance cover for the liaison officers would be raised to Rs 1.5 million (US$ 15,000) from Rs 600,000 (US$ 6,000).

Earlier, the government had raised life insurance cover for mountaineering workers (sardar, mountain guides and high-altitude workers) to Rs 1.5 million from Rs 1 million following the deadly avalanche that struck the icefall section on the world’s highest peak killing 16 Sherpa guides in 2014.

Besides, base camp workers will get an insurance cover of Rs 800,000 (US$ 8,000), the regulation stated, adding that the expedition teams should make life insurance of Rs 500,000 (US$ 5,000) for other local workers while employing them during the period of their expeditions.

“The mountaineering expedition team shall make medical insurance in amount of not less than Rs 400,000 (US$4,000) for the peaks above 6,500m and Rs 300,000 (US$3,000) for other peaks below 6,500m, from the insurance company recognised by the government, of the liaison officer, headman, mountain guide, high altitude worker, base camp worker and local worker for their minor injuries in an accident,” the regulation which was approved the Cabinet last week, read.

While each expedition aiming to climb Nepali mountains above 6,500 metres needs a liaison officer during the entire mountaineering period, non-gazetted first class or above class officers of civil service, Nepal Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police officials corresponding to the level of civil service gazetted third class, and Nepali mountaineers who have successfully climbed Mt Everest and recommended by the mountaineering association designated by the Ministry of Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation are eligible to become liaison officers.

Interestingly, The Himalayan Times’ investigation found out that most of the liaison officers never reached the Everest base camp to facilitate the world climbers but they charged each Everest expedition nearly USD 3,000 to provide necessary support to the climbers of the respective team.

The government has also restricted climbers from flying to high camps to attempt to climb different mountains. “The expedition member shall cover the distance from and to between the Base Camp and the Summit on foot. However, nothing shall be a bar to the use of helicopter, aircraft and balloon for emergency rescue of mountaineers," the revised regulation says.

The new provision relating to use of helicopter, aircraft and balloon has been included in the regulation this time after Chinese climber Wang Jing had bypassed the Khumbu Icefall using helicopter to reach to Camp II of Mt Everest in 2014.

The government had, however, recognised Jing’s controversial summit.