The Nepalese Tourism Ministry on Saturday banned solo climbers, double amputees and blind persons from climbing Mount Everest under its new rules. The decision has been taken in order to reduce the number of deaths on the world’s highest mountain, the Guardian reported. The new rules were under discussion for a month and approved by the senior officials of the tourism ministry.
Under the new rules, individual abled climbers will need to be accompanied by a mountain guide (Sherpa) and high-altitude workers who accompany such expeditions to the summit. They are eligible to receive summit certificates under the revised regulations. All the Nepalese alpine associations, that monitors such climbing expeditions had suggested an upper age limit of 76 years for the climbers. But, it has not been implemented so far. This had come after an 85-year-old man died in May this year, apparently due to low oxygen conditions. However, the Nepalese government maintained the ban on climbers under 16 years.
Experienced climbers have raised concerns about the overcrowding of the mountain dangerously and that the new companies offering lower costs to scale the peak with lower safety standards have rushed to fill demand in the market. The Nepalese government tightens the eligibility criteria for permits to scale the 8,848m (29,029ft) peak from the Nepal side before each spring climbing season. However, the enforcement is patchy and rules are frequently overlooked.
According to a database from the tourism ministry, 29 people with disabilities have attempted to climb the Everest and 15 of them have reached the top of the summit. However, two prominent climbers with disabilities, Thomas Weber and Phur Yemba Sherpa died in 2006 and 2014 respectively. Also, scores of specially-abled climbers have injured themselves while climbing or are reported missing.
One veteran climber, Alan Arnette, said the ban on amputee and visually impaired climbers was prejudiced, ignorant and irrational. In his blog, Arnette wrote, “If this is about protecting people from their own ambitions, then over half of the annual climbers should be banned each year as they lack the experience to safely climb Everest.”
The new rules were criticised by Hari Budha Magar, a former British Gurkha soldier who lost both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2010 and is training to become the first above-knee double amputee to climb Everest. “Nepal should be proud of me, not banning me. I will be climbing Everest whatever the cabinet decides. Nothing Is Impossible,” Magar wrote in his Facebook post.
The ban was also criticised by the United States (US) Ambassador to Nepal, Alaina B Teplitz, who tweeted: “Ability not perceived ‘disability’ must guide rules on who can trek Everest.” The ban comes at a time when Nepal rejected India’s offer to measure Everest, after unconfirmed reports had emerged that the size of the mountain had shrunk after the 2015 earthquake.