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Climbing Everest has become quite safe now, says Messner

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

World renowned mountaineer Reinhold Messner said Thursday that climbing Everest had become quite safe and economical as there were around thousand of hopeful Everesters every year, even as charges continue to be raised against lax attitudes to safety on the world’s tallest peak.

“Now, Everest is not a safe mountain, but quite a safe mountain,” he said. The Italian climber is the first man to climb all 14 eight-thousanders in the world and without auxiliary oxygen.

Messner and seven other renowned Everesters who made the ascent in 1978 were felicitated by the government for their contribution to promoting Nepal.

Messner said climbing Everest was economical as people were paying $11,000 apiece to obtain climbing permits only. “If you reduce the price, nobody else is up there. Now, there are around thousand of people up there.”

Everest and the natural heritage are a big draw for foreign tourists, and the numbers are increasing, he added. However, the culture of the Himalaya is gradually dying. “During our time, we used to see yak herders up in the Himalaya, but all are now climbing guides,” he said. Another Everester of 1978, Austrian Wolfgang Nairz who runs a number of projects to help Nepalis get an education and a better life, said, “When I first came to Nepal, I saw Nepal was more than a mountain. This is why I come here again and again.”

The other Everesters honoured were Oswald Ölz, Peter Habeler, Raimund Magreiter, Robert Schauer, Hanns Schell and Helmuth Hagner.

Climbing Permits

Everest is expected to witness heavy traffic this year as well. The Department of Tourism had issued climbing permits to 38 expeditions, including four Nepali groups, as of Thursday. The teams comprise 346 royalty-paying climbers. Among them, 20 are Nepali climbers. These climbers need to hire an equal number of high-altitude climbing guides.

According to Rameshwor Niraula, an official at the mountaineering division of the department, they have received several inquiries from climbers; and based on the inquiries, the number of Everest aspirants is likely to equal last year’s figure or even be slightly higher.

“We still have a weeklong window to issue the permits.” Last year, the department issued permits to 43 groups comprising 366 royalty-paying climbers. The 2017 spring season, which ended on May 31, saw the fourth highest number of successes with 445 climbers making it to the hallowed peak, according to the department. Among the climbers, there were 190 foreigners, 32 fee-paying Nepalis and 223 high-altitude climbing guides.

This year, six Nepali women journalists will also be making an attempt on the world’s tallest peak. Anish Luitel of Jhapa, who scaled Everest carrying a copy of Nepal’s new constitution in 2016, has announced making an attempt from the Chinese side this year with the logo of the 24th World Scout Jamboree, which is scheduled to be held in the US in 2019.

Kami Rita Sherpa, 48, will try to set a new world record by climbing Everest for the 22nd time. If Sherpa succeeds in the endeavour, he will break the record of 21 ascents set by Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi Sherpa, both of whom have announced retirement.

The Everest season begins next month. Hordes of climbers have already started travelling to the Khumbu valley for acclimatisation. The actual climbing will start in the second week of May.

Published: 2018-04-20 08:49:10