Everest region authorities restrict helicopter transports

Helicopter takes off from Syangboche Airfield above Namche Bazaar
Helicopter takes off from Syangboche Airfield above Namche Bazaar

The local authorities of the region around Mount Everest are currently not shying away from conflict. As reported, the Khumbu Pasanglhamu Rural Municipality does not want to abide by the Nepal Tourism Board’s new nationwide rule that trekkers going alone must hire a guide or porter. And Khumbu authorities are now also messing with expedition operators.

They have banned the practice, which has been common for years, of having expedition material transported to Everest Base Camp by helicopter. For the time being, the airfield in Syangboche, located above the Khumbu capital Namche Bazaar, is the final destination for most of the equipment this season. Only very bulky and heavy items such as large tables are to be flown to the base camp by helicopter, according to the regional administration. The rest is to be carried by porters or yaks to the foot of the highest mountain on earth. That would take several days – if enough porters and yaks are available at all.

“Irresponsible, unprofessional”

Yaks with tourist bags in the alleys of Namche Bazaar
Yaks with tourist bags in the alleys of Namche Bazaar

“I think in Syangboche there will be a total of more than 60,000 kilograms of load. 60 kilograms per yak, so you need 1000 yaks. How many yaks (are there) in the Khumbu?,” asks Nima Namgyal Sherpa on Facebook. The head of Nepali operator Kaitu Expeditions, who says he has 25 clients this season, is angry: “Expedition operators are bringing business and revenue into the local economy by working very hard to find clients but creating problem for us at the last minute by such irresponsible rule and regulation is very unprofessional by both local people and the local government.”

He agrees “one hundred percent” with Nima Namgyal, writes Mingma Sherpa, head of Seven Summit Treks, Nepal’s largest expedition operator. He says his company alone has to transport 20,000 kilograms of material to the base camp: “We are not against local people and local government but need to be practical.”

Last-minute rules

Sunrise over Mount Everest and Lhotse (r.)

“Me too facing obstacle for not finding yaks on time, I have 13,000 kilograms load at Syangboche. We got 60 clients for Everest and 15 clients for Lhotse,” writes Pemba Sherpa, head of the operator 8K Expeditions. He says, he respects the rules of the local authorities, but it cannot be that at the last minute before the season rules are issued that cause problems for the expedition companies: “Yes, yak owners should get business but if there aren’t enough yaks, heli ferry must be given.”

These days, hundreds of mountaineers from all over the world are arriving in the capital Kathmandu who want to climb Mount Everest or other high mountains of Nepal this spring. Even though they have to acclimatize first, expedition operators are under time pressure. When their clients arrive at base camp, they expect everything to be set up there. Luggage left halfway is unlikely to go down well with them. In the end, the local authorities of the Khumbu will probably give in after all. And then the helicopter noise in the region around Mount Everest will increase again.

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