The international governing body for mountaineering, the UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) has announced that it will be supporting restrictions as outlined by Nepalese authorities to prevent inexperienced and unsuitable mountaineers from attempting to summit Mount Everest from the South.
The strict measures include making prior experience of climbing a peak in excess of 6,500m a mandatory requirement, as well as introducing lower and upper age limits.
UIAA President Frits Vrijlandt explained:
"Everest should become a mountaineers’ mountain again. We support the requirement restrictions on age (denying access to those under 18, and over 75) and the minimum requirements regarding physical and mental ability to assure you are able to climb by yourself or with a partner. If you have to be hauled up the mountain you don't really belong on Everest. Most importantly these requirements are proposed by Nepalese authorities who are responsible for the mountain and have Everest’s best interests at heart.”
The UIAA and the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) have stated their belief that these measures will increase safety on an increasingly overcrowded mountain, ease pressure on mountain guides and restore "a sense of dignity and glory" to Everest.
In order to shed more light on the restrictions and address the matter of their enforcement, UKC got in touch with Tom Briggs - Marketing Director of climbing and mountaineering expedition company Jagged Globe - who recently met with the Director General of the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism in Kathmandu.
Tom told UKC:
"Their motivation is laudable - make Everest less of a 'circus' - but it's discriminative, in stark contrast to the recently passed constitution in Nepal concerning equal rights for women, disabled people and LGBT individuals."
Tom used the example of ex-military mountaineers to show that banning highly capable individuals due to disability could be a sticking point:
"Many ex-servicemen with disabilities successfully climb Everest - these restrictions would mean they won't be able to now, despite many being experienced mountaineers."
Regarding the mandatory 6,500m peak experience, Tom explained that categorising by altitude alone fails to take the technical difficulty and severity of climbs into account:
"The 6,500m restriction is also meaningless as a peak such as Aconcagua in Argentina is nearly 7,000m and it doesn't require any roped climbing skills – it can be climbed by fit and determined trekkers. If you take someone who has only climbed Aconcagua and an experienced alpinist who has climbed all of the six great north faces in the Alps, then who is a more appropriate choice for climbing Everest? So an altitude bar of 6,500m makes no sense."
However, Tom pointed out that the age restrictions are more plausible:
"Other mountains already have age restrictions, for example, under 12's can't climb Kilimanjaro. There may be some under 18's capable of climbing Everest with lots of experience, but the likelyhood of a 75 year-old making it up Everest alive is slim."
When asked how Nepal plans to enforce these restrictions, Tom was sceptical of their ability to do so:
"They don't have any real means of enforcing it as the Ministry for Tourism doesn't employ mountaineers. People currently already submit biodata forms for permits, but there will likely be noone qualified to assess their credentials. Added to this is the problem that people can and do lie about previous experience!"