Will New Rules Save Lives on Mount Everest?

    22 December, 2019

    Experienced climbers of Mount Everest are wondering if new proposed rules will deal with the root causes of deaths on the world's tallest mountain.

    The proposals, if approved by the government of Nepal, would add steps to the permitting process for climbers.

    In this May 22, 2019 photo, a long queue of mountain climbers line a path on Mount Everest just below camp four, in Nepal.
    In this May 22, 2019 photo, a long queue of mountain climbers line a path on Mount Everest just below camp four, in Nepal.

    American mountaineers Ed Viesturs and Alan Arnette said the measures are unlikely to stop inexperienced climbers from trying to travel up Mount Everest.

    This year, eleven climbers died while trying to climb the 8,850-meter high mountain. Many of them died in late May after they were stuck in a "traffic jam" near its summit.

    Viesturs told the Reuters news agency that many teams tried to reach the summit as soon as they heard predictions of good weather.

    "Everyone is afraid of missing what might be the one and only perfect day. There are typically several good summit days, but there's pressure to go when everyone else goes," he said.

    Traditionally, Nepal has given climbing permits to anyone prepared to pay a fee of $11,000. This year, the government approved a record 381 permits. With essential Sherpas and guides added, more than 800 people were trying to reach the summit during the short weather window.

    The overcrowding led to deadly delays in what is known as the "death zone," the area above 8,000 meters. It also raised concerns that guide companies were urging inexperienced mountaineers to attempt the climb.

    Among the suggested changes is a rule for climbers to have a certified doctor prepare a report on their medical history and general health. Another suggested requirement is that climbers provide evidence they have climbed another tall mountain in Nepal.

    The proposals have been offered to the cabinet for approval, said Mira Acharya, who oversees climbing activities for Nepal's Department of Tourism. The government has yet to say when the laws might take effect.

    Viesturs said the proposed changes will not do enough to stop the "group think" mentality that led to the traffic jam in late May. He said climb leaders at base camp also needed to consider how to fix the problem.

    "I know several climbers who waited until later and had the mountain almost to themselves," Viesturs said of the 2019 climbing season. "We really need to answer why so many people are on the summit ridge on the same day? How can you control it?"

    I'm John Russell.

    Andrew Both reported on this story for Reuters. John Russell adapted it story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    traffic jam – n. a long line of traffic moving very slow or stopped because of road work or an accident

    summit – n. the highest point of a mountain or hill

    fee – n. a payment made to a person, organization or government in exchange for services or advice

    window – n. a break, or stoppage, between two actions

    certified – adj. officially approved as having met an established method or rules

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