'Because It Is There', Said Mallory About Climbing Everest. Nepal Says Not For Now

by Amitabh Joshi 1 year ago Views 3446

When asked why he was attempting to climb the unconquered Mount Everest in 1923, climber George Mallory had famously quipped ‘because it’s there’.

Not for now, however, after Nepal on Thursday announced it was shutting off the world’s highest peak and cancelling all climbing permits from March 14 to April 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the entire world.

The main climbing season for Everest is in April and May and with the huge backlog of permits which will accrue, it appears the season itself may be scrapped with the coronavirus spread still unfolding.

So far, Nepal has registered one positive COVID-19 case but wishes to keep away foreigners coming from countries where the virus is rampant. 

At $11,000 each, Everest permits are a big earner for the Kathmandu government. Last year, Nepal sold over a record 380 permits in the summer season to those attempting to summit the world’s highest mountain standing at 29,029 feet.

Nepalese Sherpas earn about $6,000 per expedition, a huge income in the impoverished landlocked country. A western guide earns five times that.

Western adventure tour companies mint money taking amateur unskilled climbers to the top.  Most of these companies are American and charge anywhere between $45,000 to $90,000 per climber. The price of a bottle of oxygen is $465 and a helicopter evacuation from base camp costs $10,000.

For many people it takes years of waiting. And if you add in the cost of equipment, flights to Nepal, insurance, training and loss of earnings, the Everest peak cost for a climber is over $100,000.

The coronavirus has upturned all this and left Everest, or Sagarmatha as it is called, out of bounds. 

But perhaps for the awe-inspiring mountain, whose ecosystem has been under increasing strain from the climbing business, it will be a welcome summer of solitude.

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