Climbers hoping to scale Mount Everest need both extreme physical training and thousands of dollars to conquer the peak, but this year’s high death toll on the mountain highlights just how inconsistent the permit process is on the summit and others.
Nepal’s tourist board told the Associated Press that it has no intention of restricting the number of mountaineering permits made available after 11 people died this year on Mount Everest.
There’s no cap on how many people can climb each year, and accessing a permit remains fairly simple — climbers don’t even necessarily have to show proof of climbing experience to scale the mountain.
And Mount Everest isn’t the only peak that doesn’t require previous experience for permits. Most permit rules are created by country tourism departments, which causes a conflict between a desire to bolster the tourism industry and the safety of climbers on peaks.
The International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA) recognizes 14 mountains as the “eight thousanders,” or peaks that are more than 8,000 meters above sea level. All of the peaks are located between Nepal, China, India, and Pakistan, which all have different requirements for gaining access to mountains.
Nepal relies on tourism to bring in $300 million each year, a lot of which comes from mountaineering permits.
In Nepal, where climbers can access several eight thousanders, including, Everest, Kangchenjunga, Lhoste, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, and Annapurna, foreign climbers pay between $1,800 and $11,000 for permits in high season.
At Mount Everest, a foreign climber would pay $11,000 for the permit.
Mohan Krishna Sapkota, secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, told the Associated Press that Nepal requires climbers to have a doctors’ note deeming them physically fit to climb. The climbers do not have to prove their stamina in extreme altitudes or weather.
Danduraj Ghimire, director general of Nepal’s Tourism Department, told CNN that while expedition companies may review climbers’ past experience, state authorities do not require proof of prior climbing experience to be granted a permit.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and tourism — heavily bolstered by mountain climbers — brings in around $300 million each year.
The country does not limit the number of permits issued and instead leaves the timing of expeditions to tour guides and operators, which has lead to crowded pileups near Everest’s peak.
Despite this year’s high death toll, Sapkota encouraged more tourists and climbers to come to Everest “for both pleasure and fame.”
A total of 381 permits were issued for Everest this year.
China has limited Everest permits to clean up pollution.
Through China climbers can access a number of eight thousander, including Everest, through its Tibet Autonomous Region, as well as K2, Lhoste, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Gasherbrum I, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum II, and Shishapangma.
Climbing any mountain in China that is over 3,000 meters requires a climbing permit that shows climbers will be supervised by guides but does not require that climbers have prior experience.
Sichuan Mountaineering Association, the Chinese governmental branch that oversees mountaineering issues the permits, which also serve as a right to rescue if there is an accident, according to visittibet.org.
Permits generally cost $2,800 for a team of 10 on mountains higher than 7,000 meters, and guides are mandatory.
According to the Associated Press, China has limited the number of permits issued for routes on Everest this year in an attempt to clean up the mountain, which has been littered with empty oxygen containers and other debris.
Pakistan requires climbers to put up $10,000 in refundable rescue bonds in case the they run into trouble while climbing.
Through Pakistan, climbers can access eight thousanders K2, Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum I, Gasherbrum II, and Broad Peak.
K2, the second-highest eight thousander at 8,611 meters, requires a permit from the Ministry of Tourism in Islamabad on the Pakistan side.
The fee for the expedition is $7,200 for a team of up to seven climbers and $1,200 for each additional climber. Each team must put ups $10,000 a refundable rescue bond in case the they run into trouble on the mountain.
Climbers on K2 are also required to climb with a Pakistani Army Liaison Officer.
Permits for Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum I, Broad Peak, and Gasherbrum II cost $5,400 for a team of seven and $900 for each additional climber.
India requires climb leaders to participate in wilderness first aid training.
Through India, climbers can access Kangchenjunga. It is the third-highest eight thousander at 8,586 meters.
Climbers in India have to apply for permits through the Indian Mountaineering Foundation at least 90 days before the start of their expedition.
The Indian Mountaineering Federation reports that a permit for a peak under 6,500 meters costs $500 for a team of two members. A permit for a peak between 6,501 and 7,000 meters cost $700. For a peak higher than 7,001 meters, a permit costs $1,000 for at team of two members.
The country also requires team leaders to obtain medical fitness certificates, and participate in emergency responder first aid for wilderness training.
Leads must also be older than 25, qualified in advanced mountaineering, and have participated in climbs over 6,400 meters.
The Indian Mountaineering Federation recommends that climbers be aware of altitude and weather conditions, and care safety helmets and inter-camp communication equipment.
It also recommends that a doctor or paramedic be part of the climbing team, as well as two members with experience in high altitude trekking and rock climbing.
Elsewhere in the world, other summits like Denali in Alaska, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and Aconcagua in Argentina have their own requirements.
At Denali, a 6,190-meter mountain in Alaska, climbers have to register to climb 60 days before their start day.
While there is no required previous climbing needed to scale Denali, park officials at the National Park Service warn that it is a “very serious undertaking.”
“We recommend Denali climbers make numerous ascents of other glaciated peaks in places like Alaska, the Cascades of Washington, the European Alps, South America, or Asia to prepare for this climb,” officials said on its website. “Because glacier travel is such a huge component of climbing Denali, it is imperative to your safety and survival that your team is skilled with proper glacier travel, route finding, and crevasse rescue procedures.”
National Park Service said all guides need to be authorized by Denali National Park.
Denali National Park currently charges a $200 special use fee to climb Denali.
At Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania can only be climbed through a registered guide or trekking agency.
The cost from agency to agency varies greatly between $1,000 and $4,000.
Treks are usually carried out with groups of 15 people or more, ClimbKiliminjaro.org reported.
Permits for Anconcagua Provincial Park need to be acquired from the city of Mendoza before climbers attempt to scale Aconcagua in Argentina. The permit for a normal expedition in high season costs $122.
Climbers must submit a document detailing what other climbs they have performed, sign an affidavit assuming all responsibility for the risks of the climb, submit a list of equipment they would bring, and show a valid insurance policy.
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