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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November 12th, 2014: Some more news on Everest permits

Alan Arnette posted a quick update on the Everest permit situation for 2015 for those of us who were barred from climbing in 2014.  The update came from the online paper "The Himalayan Times" and painted a grim picture of what is in store for us.  Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the full article.  The headline reads "Govt extends group permits by five years:  If any member of an expedition scales Mt Everest‚ permits of others automatically become invalid."  Ouch!  It seems as if the Nepal government is doing everything in their power to rescind those 2014 permits and force climbers to pay more for less service.  I don't know the real situation but I commented on Alan's blog saying...
Alan,
Thanks for posting this article. The way I read it is first-come, first-served. Those who delay in their return (with the same expedition) forfeit their permit fees. I see this is a ploy for them to cash in again on the climbers – nothing new for a corrupt government. Climbers who cannot or do not put Everest as their number one priority pay a steep fee. ‘Tis a shame it has come to this extreme stance but I can’t say I was surprised. I thought the situation sorted out too nicely to actually be believable. Perhaps the Tibet side offers us a more welcoming approach with fewer problems? I remain unsure but resolute to try the Nepal side if they honor my 2014 permit.

After posting the comment, I started feeling some pangs of doubt.  Are the Nepal Ministry and Tourism officials monitoring our discussions?  Would their monitoring affect our permit eligibility for next year?  Fortunately, I poured myself a glass of wine and relaxed.  Sure, they may be reading our posts and noting who is naughty or nice.  I tend to discount that effort.  Instead, I think there is more than meets the eye for these political decisions.  Here are some thoughts and conjectures.

1.  The Nepali government is desperate for climber revenue.  They do not want 2015 to fill up with non-paying climbers for the year and decrease their ever-so-important revenue stream.  By putting limitations on the climbers and expedition leaders, they assure themselves of some climbers forfeiting their permit fees.  How many will forfeit their fees remains to be determined but it seems likely that a large portion of the 300+ fees will go unclaimed given the extreme restrictions.

2.  The expedition leaders and Nepali organizers lose income if climbers come back and demand refunds for unused services.  Many of us doubt the intentions of most expedition services - not to point fingers but they seem to have dug themselves into a nice trench while waiting for the Nepali government to fire the first shot.  Well, that shot appears to be fired and the expedition leaders are in a unique spot to invoke Russian style negotiation tactics (i.e., we are powerless to make these decisions and are held to the ruling by the Nepali government).  What a perfect defense!  I don't blame these expedition leaders; quite the contrary.  They exist to help climbers and they can only exist if they either turn a profit or remain solvent.  If we place the burden on these folks to bear the costs of last year's debacle then we climbers might find fewer expedition options in the following years.  Still, if they end up profiting from the 2014 events then they are subject to well-deserved criticism.  

3.  The expedition leaders benefit from the decree.  So the Nepali government laid out the terms and the terms appear as if they favor the expedition leaders bottom line.  We climbers must reassemble with the same climbers from the same expedition and climb with the same company.  Convenient for the expedition leaders?  I should say so.  We have no choice but to return with our original teammates and original leaders.  Those climbers who cannot pony up the funds for 2015 lose their permit fees by fiat.  Shame it has come to this point.  Climbing these big peaks became a huge money-making show and climbers are expected to pay...pay...pay until it hurts.  The climbers who saved up in 2014 must hurt a bit to retain their investment.  Thankfully, I scrimped and saved for 2015 so I intend to go back but I feel for those who cannot afford the return.

4.  Climbers who wish to climb must jump aboard right away.  I wonder if the Nepali government employed some economists to forecast the return rate.  My suspicion is that a small proportion will return with many opting to skip Nepal by climbing Everest via Tibet.  The Chinese would welcome the extra income - perhaps not from Americans (NB:  we were excluded from permits for 2014 without much feedback as to why).  As I noted in my comment to Alan, the first-come, first-served rush will affect the expedition teams in some way.  How?  Not sure yet but I plan on keeping a keen eye on the team dynamics.  Some people may feel pressed into service - both financially and physically - and that pressure may lead to some serious problems on the hill. 

All of these points lead me to question why the heck I am pressing forward with my objective.  I guess I am crazy - seems like a reasonable explanation at this point.  

Thanks for following my weekly ramblings.  Next post:  more gear!