On the continuum of adventure sports experiences, it doesn’t get much higher (pun intended) than summiting Mount Everest. Reaching the peak of the world’s tallest mountain is a lofty dream for thousands of climbers. However, as of 2018, that dream may have to change for some. Nepal is instituting a sweeping ban on foreign solo climbers in the coming season.
In a move ostensibly to ease safety concerns, Nepal has banned all foreign solo climbers on any of its mountains, including Mount Everest. Foreign climbers will now be required to use the services of an official Nepalese guide.
The latter seems to indicate the move may be motivated more by tourism dollars than safety, however. The local government has hinted as much. In an interview with the Kathmandu Post, the country’s tourism secretary, Maheshwar Neupane, noted, “[t]he mountaineering regulation has been amended to improve safety of the climbers and has delegated more power to the Department of Tourism to function independently. It has also ensured the rights of high-altitude Nepali guides and climbers.”
Curiously, an additional ban has been placed on visually impaired and double amputee climbers unless they’ve received an official medical dispensation from their doctor. (That a blind person or double amputee can be physically capable of climbing Everest boggles the mind …)
Every year, hundreds visit Nepal to climb Mount Everest. Last year saw the most summit attempts ever, and that increase also saw a predictable rise in the number of injuries and deaths. The mountain has taken at least 200 climbers since 1920, and the majority of those have been in the last 40 years. The reasons vary widely. Some are obvious — approximately one-third die in avalanches, while 23 percent succumb to a fall. A full 20 percent are killed solely from exposure or acute high-altitude sickness.
In 2017 alone, there were several high profile deaths, which once again resurfaced the debate over the mountain’s safety. Namely: the so-called “Swiss Machine” Ueli Steck, a world-famous climber who died attempting a solo summit of a mountain neighboring Everest, and Min Bahadur Sherchan, the 85-year-old who lost his life while trying to reclaim the record as the world’s oldest climber to summit Everest.
The Nepalese government has yet to confirm when the ban will go into effect. However, it’s all but certain to affect the spring 2018 climbing season.