Climbers at Mt Everest. (File Photo/Khabarhub)
KATHMANDU: The government’s decision to halt all climbing activities of the season in view of the possible outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has greatly worried all the entrepreneurs, including expedition operators, and workers as their livelihood are sure to be impacted directly by it.
Yet, many of them who are used to some sort of hardship now set their eye on autumn season.
The Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai made the declaration related to the suspension of all expeditions to the peaks this season on March 13.
This week, the ministry decided to officially postpone the Visit Nepal Year 2020’s secretariat effective from Apr. 13.
The government has opened 414 peaks for climbing. In spring season last year, royalty generated by granting the permit for mountaineering was around 496.55 million rupees.
The suspension of expeditions in Nepal will affect hundreds of foreign climbers now preparing for the spring season, a window or relatively good weather between the end of the bitterly cold winter and the rainy season which begins in June.
Nearly 60 percent of the population in the country have a direct or indirect connection with the tourism industry.
“More than 60 percent Nepalis are directly and indirectly connected to the tourism industry,” mountaineer Mingma Dorchi Sherpa said while speaking to Khabarhub.
But, the mountaineers and expeditions operators, now, hoping for the autumn season. They are postponing all the spring expeditions to the autumn season so far.
Seven Summit Treks, who has more than 200 climbers in Spring seasons has started planning for the autumn season.
Thaneswar Guragai, Manager at Seven Summit Treks informed Khabarhub that they have some 70 climbers for Everest in the autumn season (September to November) and good numbers of climbers for Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, Annapurna, and others eight-thousanders.
Similarly, many expedition operators are looking for K2, Broadpeak, Gasherbrum in June-July too.
Sanu Sherpa, 44, now a successful mountaineer with the record of being the third Nepali to climb all 14 peaks above 8,000 meters, is hopeful and somewhat doubt for K2 and other mountains as the number of death and infections increasing in Pakistan day by day.
If everything come under control, he is planning for K2 in Pakistan in June-July.
He thinks as other mountaineers that health is the most priority. The halt of expeditions for one season or one year would not make the big differences. We would speed up the pace for the next season.
Lakpa Sherpa, managing director at Pioneer Adventure Pvt. Ltd has the same thought as Sanu Sherpa. He is also hopeful for the autumn season and convincing his clients for the autumn season so far.
Many climbers have canceled the trip and he is now busy to refund the amount that the climbers have paid for the expeditions.
He is settling the payment to the clients, which takes a long time. Similarly, utilizing the lockdown, he also encourages his fellow staff to learn the language classes.
Bam Bahadur BK, 25, a government clerk by profession, was all set to climb Mt Everest in the spring season.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his mission failed this time. Now, he has his eyes on the autumn window.
If that is not possible he will go for next year’s spring season. But, he is planning to climb at least one 8000er in this autumn season.
Mountaineering is not only related to the country. Most of the mountaineering sector is dependent on foreigners.
So, unless the travel gets a green signal with the victory over a pandemic, the industry can hardly dream of its revival.