The tented city at the foot of Mount Everest is bustling as mountaineers brace for potentially the busiest year yet on the world’s highest peak, prompting concerns about overcrowding and safety.
Since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the first ascent in 1953 more than 4,000 climbers have reached the top of Everest, according to The Himalayan Database.
The past few years have seen especially rapid growth, with the mountain opening up to more people as competition between expedition organizers has caused costs to plummet.
However, rising numbers mean greater risk — a higher chance of bottlenecks as larger teams lumber their way to the summit, potential shortages of oxygen tanks, and increased risk of frostbite and even death.
A photograph of a huge traffic jam below the summit in 2012 prompted calls for better crowd management, and even a cap on the number of permits issued annually.
Nepal grants permits to all who apply and are willing to pay US$11,000 to scale the 8,848m peak.
This year the government has handed out 378 climbing permits, according to the Nepalese Department of Tourism.
That tops the previous record of 373 in 2017.
Most Everest aspirants would need the help of Nepalese guides to reach the summit, meaning that about 750 climbers are to tread the same path to the top in the coming weeks when the weather is expected to be most favorable.
At least 140 others are also preparing to scale Everest using the northern route from Tibet, expedition operators say, taking the potential total past last year’s record of 807 when five people died.
Spring is the busiest time of year on the mountain as the icy winds and bone-chilling temperatures are more forgiving than at other times.
Even so, the climbing season is short, with ascents expected to begin in the coming days and usually wrap up by the end of this month or the first week of next month.
Ice doctors, the elite Sherpa mountaineers who set the ropes to the summit for hundreds of paying clients to climb, are waiting for a favorable weather window to begin their ascent, but powerful jet streams raging around the top of Everest have expedition operators worried about the number of summit days, raising the likelihood of many climbers going up at the same time.
Mountaineering blogger Alan Arnette said that problems could arise at the end of the season due to overcrowding when desperate climbers push onward to the summit despite a narrowing weather window.
“Perhaps Nepal should put a limit like China has done or the US Park Service for Denali,” Arnette said.
“But I doubt Nepal ever will do this because there is too much money at stake and they seem unable to refuse business, regardless of the risks,” he said.
LIFE GOES ON: After a strict lockdown that left millions on the brink of starvation, Indians embrace work to avoid starvation and get ready for several major festivals India is on course to top the world in COVID-19 cases, but from Maharashtra’s whirring factories to Kolkata’s thronging markets, people are back at work — and eager to forget the pandemic for festival season. After a strict lockdown in March that left millions on the brink of starvation, the government and people of the world’s second-most populous country decided life must go on. Sonali Dange, for instance, has two young daughters and an elderly mother-in-law to look after. She was hospitalized this year in excruciating pain after catching the novel coronavirus. However, after the lockdown exhausted the family’s savings, the 29-year-old had
A COVID-19 outbreak among hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian fishers flown to New Zealand to bolster its struggling deep-sea fishing industry has prompted that country’s largest daily increase in infections in months, authorities said yesterday. More than 230 fishers were flown in from Moscow last week, with 18 of the crew members then testing positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine, New Zealand Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said. The Pacific nation has almost eliminated local transmission of the virus, but regularly records small numbers of new cases in returned travelers. The fishing cluster pushed the daily tally of new infections to 25,
From monitoring vital signs to filtering filthy air and even translating speech into other languages, the COVID-19-fueled boom in mask-wearing has spawned an unusual range of high-tech face coverings. As masks become the norm worldwide, tech companies and researchers are rolling out weird and wonderful models to guard against infection and cash in on a growing trend. One of the wackiest comes from Japan, where start-up Donut Robotics has created a face covering that helps users adhere to social distancing and also acts as a translator. The “C-Face” mask works by transmitting a wearer’s speech to a smartphone via an app, and allows
JAPAN Deer-edible bags invented The deer that roam Nara no longer face discomfort — or far worse — after local firms developed a safe alternative to the plastic packaging discarded by tourists that often ended up in the animals’ stomachs. Last year, several of the 1,300 deer that wander around the ancient capital’s central park were found dead after swallowing plastic bags and food wrappers. Firms collaborated to develop bags that pass safely through the animals’ complex digestive system. The bags are made with recycled pulp from milk cartons and rice bran, one of the main ingredients of the shika senbei savory