The Himalayas are the youngest mountains on this planet. Nepal happens to be one of the younger democracies. Both have teething troubles trying to find their feet. Thats but natural, and so one needs to be patient when dealing with their tantrums. Of course some of these tantrums kill and maim, like the earthquake in 2015, and children too can sometimes be selfish and naughty. The tantrums of nature have to be borne with, with fortitude, only ensuring that we do not aid or abet them by our selfish ecology endagering activities. But what of a selfish child.
So let it be with the Dept. of Tourism, Govt. of Nepal. Their latest list of restrictions regarding climbing in their Himalayas is a case in point. If media reports are to be believed, DOT has henceforth prohibited handicapped climbers and solo climbers.The pampered child seems to have grown up to be a spoiled adult, one who is interested only in the "spoils".
In one fell stroke of this law they have denied the existence of another Hermann Buhl, another Messner, another Kukuczka or Steck. They have negated the Olympian ideals of the Paralympics denying the existence of another Inglis, another Weihenmayer or Arunima Sinha. Most significantly the very ethos of Alpinism has been ignored.
Nepal has been blessed in having a large chunk of the accessible Himalayas within its geographical boundaries, making it a lodestone for climbers. What started as pure exploration and mountaineering activity has now been buried under an avalanche of commercial guided climbs.
Such commercial climbs are defenitely economically essential for Nepal and its Sherpas. The lure of the dollar can not be ignored. BUT there had always been a space left for individual exceptional climbers, who refuse to team up with a commercial rope of summit-certificate-seekers who have to be shepharded to the top and back like so many GoreTexed sheep. This new law will defenitely obliterate that space.
Regulations had been in place for years and were supposedly monitored and enforced by DOT. But the loopholes were exploited by the agencies and DOT had been turning a myopic eye for years. How else can one explain the issuance of summit certificates based on morphed photos if the concerned agencies were not in collusion with the certificate seekers. How else can one explain the official post-expedition reports of Liason Officers who were conspicuous by their absence at Base Camp, and gathered their information second-hand. How else can one explain a leader's post-expedition report about a climber in his team he had never met. How else can one explain the recent development of the Govt. of India asking the Govt. of Nepal to investigate the Everest tragedy of 2016 where the services provided by the agency supposedly left a lot to be desired. DOT never clarified why they had not taken suo-moto cognizance of these irregularities without being prompted.
The venerated Everest, "Because It's there", has become the highest piece of real estate in the world. The owner rents it out every year and the tenancy rates keep going up. They have turned it into a cash cow to be milked dry annually. Stretching the veterinary analogy further Everest is now the proverbial pampered domesticated Golden Goose laying a seasonal golden egg each year. This Goose is undoubtedly a Nepali citizen with guaranteed rights. So the rest of the mountaineering world can only hope that DOT will also provide Visas for some "Wild Geese" too, whose eggs are surely more nutricious for the healthy growth of traditional Alpinism.
Though there remains a justifiable need for "quantity" to generate revenues, there should also be adequate space for "quality" Alpinism. The world patiently awaits for clearer vision to return to the dollar-blinded eyes.