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Icefall doctors fix new route

Icefall doctors have completed the construction of a new South Col route up the world’s highest peak and they are committed to ensuring that it remains accessible throughout this climbing season.

According to Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, which has been assigned by the government to mobilise a team of eight icefall doctors led by Ang Kami Sherpa to construct the route in ‘killer’ icefall region, it completed the construction of route starting from Base Camp (5,335m) to Camp 2 (6,400m) yesterday.

Yangji Doma Sherpa, an officer at SPCC, said the climbers who had been acclimatising in the Khumbu region before attempting to scale Mt Everest, Mt Lhotse and Mt Nuptse would use the newly constructed route in the next couple of weeks.

According to icefall doctors, the new route up to Camp 1 (6,000m) is completely new and the climbers have to pass close to Mt Nuptse.

Icefall doctors, who fixed ropes and aluminum ladders in the icefall region, said at least four vertical ladders were tied together at one point. “It avoids the hanging ice on the West Shoulder that killed 16 mountaineering support staff and guides near Camp 1 in April last year,” said SPCC’s base camp manager Tshering Sherpa.

Though the new route appears to be more vertical climb and steeper than the traditional one, the climbers will get a chance to pass through a completely new icy slope after more than two decades of the Everest climbing history.

“It may make journey up through the icefall slower and a bit difficult but the route is comparatively safer than the previous one, as it minimises the risk of serac avalanches,” Sherpa said.

SPCC has recommended that operators, workers and climbers must ensure that there is only one climber on any ladder at any given time.

It has stated that individual high altitude mountain workers should carry limited loads so as not to overload the ladders, adding that they should strictly adhere to safety measures, such as clipping harnesses to safety ropes while on ladders.

According to the Department of Tourism, the government has assigned SPCC to construct a new route for the spring season at a cost of 25,000 USD. Acclaimed mountaineer and filmmaker David Breashears and climbing expert Pete Athans have offered their technical, as well as theoretical, expertise in constructing the new route up to Camp 1, according to SPCC.

“Climbers have been acclimatising in Khumbu to prepare themselves for summit bid but some teams are scrambling to get their gears to the base camp due to shortage of porters,” climber Alan Arnette told this daily from Namche.

According to Gyanendra Shrestha, a DoT official, the department has already issued climbing permits to 36 expedition teams comprising 319 climbers for Mt Everest. “Of them, 109 climbers renewed their 2014 permits while four more new teams will also be applying for the world’s highest peak in a day or two,” he said. Ninety-three climbers, including 23 from the last year’s teams, have obtained permit for Mt Lhotse.

Source: THT

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Work begins to establish safer route up Everest

Work has begun to chart a new Everest route from Base Camp to Camp I to avoid the present avalanche-prone path for the safety of climbers, the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC) said. The task is expected to be completed by early April in time for the 2015 spring climbing season.

“Eight Icefall doctors are currently working on developing the alternative route. They have completed work up to the Popcorn area and from there, the existing route will be slightly modified to connect Camp II,” said Kapindra Rai, the programme officer at the SPCC.

“Based on the report of the Icefall doctors on Monday, the alternative route will be completed by April 2-3 depending on the icefall condition,” he added.

According to Rai, the proposed route will be slight curved and comparatively more time consuming than the old route. “If the work is completed by early April, climbing will likely begin on May 11 depending on weather conditions.”

Meanwhile, expedition agencies said that the number of Everest aspirants is likely to jump this spring season as the government has announced that the climbers who had to abandon their summit bids last year will be permitted to make another attempt individually or with any expedition of their choice. The Cabinet had recently approved the proposal of the Tourism Ministry to allow the mountaineers to make a second attempt on the peak.

However, the climbers who had received group permits will have to pay an additional $1,000 per person on top of the $10,000 royalty they paid to the government last season. The additional royalty is based on the new climbing fee policy that went into effect on January 1 this year. “We expect the number of climbers to double this season as the government has been flexible in permitting mountaineers to climb individually or with an expedition,” said Mingma Sherpa, managing director of Seven Summit Treks and Expedition.

“We have received 60 percent confirmation from the climbers who gave up their climbs last year,” he said. The agency had handled 50 climbers during the 2014 spring season. “Besides, we have been receiving good response from new climbers,” said Sherpa.

According to him, the move to change the route is a good initiative to make climbing safer. “However, it does not guarantee full safety as the icefall will always be a perilous and completely unpredictable stretch on Everest.”

Last year, the Tourism Ministry had issued climbing permits to 39 groups comprising more than 330 individuals and collected $3.2 million in fees. However, tragedy struck on April 18 when 16 Nepali climbers were buried under seracs at the Khumbu Icefall, also known as Popcorn Field, due to the treacherous blocks of ice on the glacier.

The disaster led high-altitude guides to boycott expeditions and launch strikes. Subsequently, the government extended the validity of the permits to five years for foreigners who had to turn back as a result of the protest. During the 2013 season, 567 of the 678 climbers who obtained permits succeeded in reaching the top of Everest. There were 334 guides including a number of Nepali climbers. The government earned $3.16 million in royalties.

According to government data, 4,411 people have climbed the highest peak on earth since the first ascent in 1953. 

Source: eKantipur

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Nepal boosts doctors‚ rescue efforts at Everest

Nepal is adding more medical staff at Mount Everest’s base camp and working to speed up rescue efforts, officials said Tuesday, in steps to boost safety after 16 local guides were killed by an avalanche last year in the deadliest disaster ever on the world’s highest peak.

Four doctors, up from two or three in the past, will be stationed at the base camp’s emergency room tent, which will be equipped to handle almost any medical need, said Devi Bahadur Koirala of the Himalayan Rescue Association Nepal.

Authorities have also arranged for rescue helicopters to airlift sick or injured climbers from base camp within 90 minutes, Koirala said. Previously, each team would arrange their own rescue, which would often take hours.

Sick or injured climbers would be first treated at the base camp and airlifted to their lower attitude clinic at Pheriche, located at an elevation of 4,370 meters (14,340 feet) and if necessary to the capital, Kathmandu.

During the spring climbing season that runs from March 1 to May 31, more than 300 foreign climbers attempting to scale Everest and their local guides and support staff swell the base camp’s population to more than 1,000 people, turning the area into a tent village. In addition, hundreds of trekkers hike up to the base camp during the same time.

Koirala said most of their patients suffer from high altitude sickness, but other common problems include injuries and broken bones of people who slip and fall on the mountain slopes.

In the 2014 avalanche that struck just above the base camp, several local guides and porters who were carrying equipment and supplies at the beginning of the season were swept away by snow, hit by falling ice and rocks, or fell into crevasses. Nepal was criticized for not having a rescue plan during disasters or any government presence at the base camp despite charging climbers huge permit fees.

Nepal’s government is also setting up a full-time office tent at the base camp this season which will have officials throughout the climbing season to provide security, settle disputes among climbers and monitor the activities of the hundreds of climbers and guides at the base camp.

They would provide information on climbing conditions and weather on the mountain and have communication equipment to quickly respond to any problems.

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) Mount Everest since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay. Hundreds of others have died in the attempt.

Source: THT

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Government opening liaison office at Everest Base Camp in March

The government has started preparations to set up its contact office at Everest Base Camp for the spring season which begins in March.

Officials say once the office starts operations, mountaineers will feel safer. Also, they can get required information in time.
“We will be setting up the office for three months. Our officials will provide necessary information to climbers, provide weather updates, and settle disputes arising among climbers and mountaineering workers,” Puspa Raj Katuwal, chief of mountaineering division at the Department of Tourism, said. “Officials will also monitor the activities of guides and climbers to ensure that illegal activities do not take place.”

The government had opened similar office at the base camp in April last year.

Officials deputed at the contact office will also be responsible for setting up emergency response team to help in case any disaster happens. The office will have computer with email and Internet facility, satellite phones and mobile phones for quick exchange of information, according to officials of the department.

The government is setting up the office in the beginning of the season this year after it was heavily criticized for not having a proper mechanism to provide weather updates after an avalanche took lives of 16 mountaineering workers. Following the incident, almost all expedition teams had canceled their expedition.

The department is holding talks with the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology for putting in place an appropriate mechanism to provide weather updates to trekkers. It is also working to develop GPS tracking system for climbers.

Meanwhile, the government has decided to change climbing route near Khumbu Icefall slightly to avoid the area where avalanche occurred last year. Officials of the department say there will be a slight change route this season. “Climbers will have to deviate around 40 meters right of the regular trail which will extend the trip to Camp I by around 2 hours,” they said.

“We have given high priority to safety concerns this year as we are expecting rise in the number of climbers due to reduction in climbing fee,” said Katuwal.

According to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, around 450 climbers reach the summit of Mt Everest annually. The tallest peak on earth has been climbed by more than 4,000 climbers since the first summit of Mt Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953.

Source: Republica

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