Nepal's new trekking safety rules 'could save lives'

It was quite unfortunate that the tragic incident last week took many live in the Himalayas. We express our deep condolences to the friends and families of those who lost their lives on the avalanche. And hope that the new guidelines and rules can bring safety and save lives in the future. Here's an article published on Telegraph:

Government officials in Nepal pledged on Tuesday to introduce better forecasting and monitor the movement of trekkers more closely after the Himalayan country’s worst hiking disaster left dozens of people dead last week.

Tulasi Gautam, a tourism department official, said trekkers venturing to mountain trails will be required to take local guides who are properly trained. They will also have to rent a GPS tracking unit in case of an emergency.

At least 41 people were killed when a blizzard and avalanches swept the mountains of the Annapurna region. Of those, 21 were foreign trekkers and mountaineers from countries including India, Israel, Canada, Poland, Japan, China and Slovakia. Twenty were Nepalese guides, porters and villagers.

A group of trekkers from Intrepid Travel managed to avoid the worst of the weather because they had been adequately warned. Steve Wroe, a manager at the company, told Telegraph Travel: “In our case, our office called the leader and advised him of the coming storm so we diverted the trek to avoid the Thorung Pass. All our trekkers were safe and accounted for as result.”

He welcomed the proposed safety arrangements and said: “Travelling on an organised trek, with a reputable company, highly trained leaders and an office in Kathmandu is inherently safer.

“The other benefit of travelling with a leader, Sherpas and porters, aside from safety and a better experience overall, is that you are benefitting the local economy by employing locals.”

Mohan Krishna Sapkota, the tourism ministry's joint secretary, said that many of the trekkers who were on the Annapurna circuit when the weather turned hostile had not registered with authorities in advance, so there had been no reliable record of how many people were in need of rescuing.

The many backpackers who walk the circuit without guidance to save money were criticised. "This will not be tolerated any more," he told Reuters. "It is better to have less tourists who pay more, than thousands who come but flout the rules.”

“Many independent trekkers were unaware of the risks and tried to cross the pass which put them in danger,” said Mr Wroe. "Although backpackers and independent trekkers have been walking the Annapurna Circuit for years many were caught out because storms of this severity are very unusual at this time of year."

Tulasi Gautam told AP that all trekkers must now register at check posts while entering and exiting the trekking areas. Previously, foreign trekkers were required to buy permits or at least register before entering trekking areas, but Nepalese nationals were not. No-one had been required to check out when they left.



Trekking thru Annapurna circuit restricted after blizzards

Following dozens of death by blizzards, authorities have restricted tourists to trek through some parts of the Annapurna circuit for time being.

According to the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal (TAAN), trekkers now cannot pass through the trekking route above upper Mustang.

The Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) is regulating the trekking activities in the area.

It has stopped collecting fees and giving approvals to trekkers to go beyond upper Mustang citing security reasons, according to West Regional President of TAAN, Ramchandra Sharma.

Source: THT

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