Wednesday, 14 April, 2021
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OPINION

Mountain Tourism Reviving Steadily



BMD

Despite the growing COVID-19 cases in many nations and various restrictive measures in place worldwide to rein in the pandemic, Nepal's mountain tourism, especially peak climbing, is on the path to a steady recovery.
This has brought a glimmer of hope to few adventure tour operators and mountain guides and other support staff. Lodges located along the major trekking trails have also reopened after more than a year. However, the hotel industry and other associated services have suffered a huge setback from the existing global public health crisis.
The Department of Tourism (DoT) has so far issued permit to more than 215 climbers to attempt different peaks, including Sagarmatha, for this spring. These climbers belong to various expeditions.
According to the DoT, seven expeditions have received permit to climb the 8,848.86-metre Sagarmatha. Four teams have got permission to attempt Mt. Annapurna I (8,091m) while two each have received it to scale Mt. Dhaulagiri, Mt. Lhotse and Mt. Nupse. Likewise, the DoT has permitted one climber to attempt Mt. Manaslu.
Many more international climbers are expected to apply for permit to climb numerous mountains in the near future. Sagarmatha, the world's tallest mountain, alone is likely to see scores of additional mountaineers from across the world.
Spring is the peak season for mountaineering in Nepal. But there was not a single expedition in the country last spring due to the COVID-19 contagion.
The expedition that includes Bahraini Prince Sheikh Mohamed Hamad Mohamed Al Khalifa was the first to get the permit to attempt Mt. Everest for this season. Khalifa's team had climbed Mt. Manaslu and Mt. Lobuche in October last year.
The 16-member Everest expedition has 13 Bahraini nationals and three British climbers. The high-profile team has brought Nepal to limelight globally as it is attempting the world's tallest mountain at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has hit global tourism hard. If the team is successful in its mission, the country is sure to get a lot of publicity and promotion internationally.
Mountaineering is a major sector to contribute to revenue generation and creation of jobs. This sector directly supports the rural economy.
Similarly, a Qatari woman climber Sheikha Asma Al Thani is also preparing to climb Mt. Everest this spring. Asma, 31, aims to reach the summits of the seven highest mountains on the seven continents. She has already scaled the North Pole, Mt. Aconcagua in South America and Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. She also intends to be the first woman from her country to reach the summit of the world’s tallest peak.
In 1975, Japanese climber Junko Tabei became the first woman to make it to the summit of Everest. Since Tabei’s historic ascent, hundreds of women from various countries from across the globe have scaled the mountain.
Asma, who is the director of marketing and communications for the Qatar Olympic Committee, is the third Qatari to attempt Mt. Everest. Through her adventure trip, she also aims to shatter the stereotypical image of the traditional explorer and demonstrate women’s empowerment in Qatar and inspire a new generation of women across the region to have bigger dreams.
Meanwhile, a team of icefall doctors has already left for the Khumbu Region to fix lines through the challenging terrain along the Khumbu Icefall. As experienced high altitude climbers, they set a route using ladders and ropes along seracs and over crevasses from Everest Base Camp to Camp II along the normal route. Climbers attempting Mt. Everest, Mt. Nupse and Mt. Lhotse use this route. Because of the dedicated efforts made by the icefall doctors, the Khumbu Region has remained much safer since 1997.