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Everest, New Fees and Restrictions on Climbers

Everest, new fees and restrictions on climbers. International publicity about the Nangpa La shooting led some journalists to see it as a factor in the Chinese authorities’ decision to place restrictions on teams going to Everest in spring 2007. But the Chinese Mountaineering Association's formal announcement, distributed in November to trekking agencies in Kathmandu, made it clear that the cause was actually related to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and China's plan to take the Olympic torch to the summit of Everest, before running it in relays to the Beijing stadium.

A covering letter from the secretary of CMA’s Exchange Department, Li Guowei, to one Kathmandu agent said, “We have some temporary measures to limit the climbers in 2007 and 2008.” However, at least part of what is now billed as temporary is expected to become permanent, according to a CTMA official in an interview during December 2006. He estimated that the number of teams in 2007 could be half the number in spring ‘06. Asked whether any teams besides the official 50-member expedition would be permitted in 2008, he replied, “I don’t know.”

The official explained that during the coming years the rules will gradually be tightened. Improving the quality of expeditions on the mountain would be implemented in 2007 by including a requirement that climbers have mountaineering skills; some do not possess these when they arrive at base camp. Expeditions would also need to be equipped with walkie-talkies and other safety-enhancing equipment. Although he did not expand on this topic, it might mean that agents will no longer be able simply to obtain a climbing permit and then sign up a collection of independent climbers who have never met and who don’t even speak a common language.

The requirement that all Everest climbers must have been to 8,000m previously will disqualify a lot of would-be Everesters, especially those who would normally join a “collection.” A significant percentage of the hundreds of people who go each year to nearby Cho Oyu, which is the least difficult of all the 8,000ers, do so as a run-up to an Everest attempt. But many of them turn back before reaching the magic altitude of 8,000m and thus will not be considered by the CMA and CTMA to be fit to attempt the Tibetan side of the mountain.

The rules from 2007 onward may be a boon to the government of Nepal, which charges a steep fee for climbs on its side of the mountain. They will certainly be effective in reducing crowding at campsites and at the ladder placed beside the Second Step, and in eliminating the quasi-competent men and women wanting to be able to boast back home that they have climbed to the highest point on earth.

The cost increases in Tibet were spelled out soon after the initial notice. They add $1,000 to the current $3,900 per foreign climber, $500 more to the $1,700 payable per climbing Sherpa and $300 more to the $1,100 per kitchen staff worker. Despite these increases, the rates will still be substantially below Nepal’s permit fees, although numerous unexpected charges keep being added to the total cost in Tibet.

Elizabeth Hawley, AAC Honorary Member, Nepal