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.