May 29 is remembered and celebrated as a prominent day in the world’s history of mountaineering. The day is marked as the International Everest Day in commemoration of the first human ascent of Mt. Everest. It was on May 29, 1953 when Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Edmund Hillary were successful in making it to the summit of the globe’s highest mountain. Seventy long years have passed since the climb. Conquering the mountain, which now measures 8,848.86 metres, has become the wish and ambition of many adventurers from around the world.
Known as Sagarmatha in Nepal, the mountain has been an important source of revenue for the nation. Most importantly, many people, including expedition operators, mountain guides and other support staff, also stand to benefit from this mountain directly and indirectly.
Nepal’s natural beauty and the resources available are unrivalled. And these potentials have helped the tourism industry flourish, to a great extent. For the 2023 spring season alone, the Nepal government issued nearly 500 climbing permits to attempt Sagarmatha ascent. Every individual who is going atop is putting in efforts to make name and fame for themselves. Their unprecedented feats on different mountains also become useful to the nation as they help bring the country into a global spotlight. And the pristine mountain has helped everyone gain a certain amount of fame, respect and a sense of fulfillment.
Last month, we saw a number of climbers setting new records for themselves. Legendary Nepali climber Kami Rita Sherpa was able to break his own record by ascending the mountain for a record 28th time. He reached atop the mountain on May 29, coinciding with the International Everest Day. Just a day before, another climber Pasang Dawa Sherpa scripted history by climbing the peak for the 27th time. Likewise, a brave and courageous story was written when Gurkha veteran Hari Budha Magar, who had lost both his legs while fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, successfully ascended the peak. Even in the past, many climbers from home and abroad earned fame for them.
The amount of love that our mountains and other natural resources has given knows no bounds. But if we think objectively, it is a harsh truth that from our side, we have failed to do anything substantive for the mountains.
The world today is suffering from the wrath of climate change and its effects are evident on Mt. Everest as well as other mountains. The growing number of climbers has resulted in overcrowding Sagarmatha and the disposal of excessive waste on it.
Such human activities degrade the beauty and importance of this natural heritage. While we celebrate the International Everest Day with much vigour and excitement, it should be remembered that the importance of Mt. Everest should not be limited to revenue and fame collection. This day is also a reminder of our responsibility towards our mountains. We should make every effort possible to conserve the mountains at all costs.
Mt. Everest is closely linked to our identity, our pride and to our economic development. As long as we don’t put in necessary efforts, our revenue generation can never be sustainable. Because the lives of hundreds and thousands are linked to our mountains, the government holds the utmost responsibility of maintaining the peak, its beauty and its continued popularity and captivating power. Let this be a key priority.