Tourism officials in Nepal announced this week that they would open five more peaks above 8,000 meters (26,250 feet) to climbers in an attempt to boost foreign revenue and prevent the dangerous overcrowding that plagued Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, over the spring 2013 season.
The Himalayan kingdom allows climbers to scale just eight mountain summits above 8,000 meters. Come this fall, mountaineers will have access to three new peaks in the Kanchenjunga region and two in the Everest region, pending approval in October from the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation. These summits include Lhotse Middle, Lhotse Shar, Kanchenjunga South, Kanchenjunga Central and Kanchenjunga West.
Mountain massifs over 8,000 meters are generally quite large and tend to have more than one peak. As such, most of the pending additions are simply supplementary challenges to existing mountaineering areas, and anyone wishing to join the elite group of mountaineers who've climbed all 14 of the world’s highest mountains (or those above 8,000 meters) would still have to climb the main peaks of each one and not the newly identified side peaks.
“It is necessary for the Nepalese delegation to campaign strongly and persuade the UIAA member federation delegates to approve the recognition of these new 8,000-meter peaks at the UIAA General Assembly,” Ang Tshering Sherpa, senior vice president of the International Mountaineers Association and UIAA honorary member, noted in a call to action on his Asian Trekking website.
“It is also important to keep a distinction between the historically recognized peaks and that of newly recognized peaks. Among other reasons, it is so that it does not belittle the colossal achievements of past climbers who have scaled all 14 of the currently recognized 8,000-meter peaks in the world.”
When it meets in October, the UIAA will also consider Broad Peak Central along the Pakistan-China border. Tshering said recognizing these six new 8,000-meter peaks would bring in “a new era of inspirational mountaineering campaigns” that could lure back veterans and stir the imaginations of new climbers.
“As mountaineers and mountain lovers, we all love that climbers are doing new adventures, making new routes and accomplishing new achievements,” he said. “It is also our duty to make mountaineering exciting for the next generation and make them feel that they are able to also achieve new successes. Recognizing new peaks will also mean that a larger number of expeditions will be going to our mountains for climbing.”
Nepal is one of Asia’s poorest countries and its adventure tourism industry provides a source of much-needed foreign revenue. Last year, mountaineering royalties alone brought in $4.2 million in revenue, $3.3 million of which came from Everest.
While the new peaks could help increase royalty collection and stimulate job creation in Nepal, they could also potentially diversify the kingdom’s offerings and relieve the bottlenecks on Mount Everest that led to a high altitude brawl in April between three European climbers and a team of Sherpa guides.
“By the time the climbers descended back to Camp 2, some 100 Sherpas had grouped together and attacked,” Italian climber Simone Moro said in a controversial statement issued on his website soon after the brawl. “They became instantly aggressive and not only punched and kicked the climbers, but threw many rocks as well. A small group of Westerners acted as a buffer between the out of control mob and the climbers, and they owe their lives to these brave and selfless people.”
Witnesses said the ordeal began after the three Europeans hastily climbed above the Sherpa guides while they fixed ropes for another team, instead of waiting as instructed. The clash highlighted an overcrowding issue on the world’s highest peak and led to calls for a new code of conduct for climbers and guides.
Nepali officials announced earlier this month that they would set up a permanent government team at the base camp of Mount Everest, an initial step toward tightening regulations. April’s events cast a dark shadow over the sport and became the biggest story out of Everest in a year otherwise marked by “diamond jubilee” celebrations in honor of the 60th anniversary of the maiden climb by Tenzing Norgay and New Zealander Edmund Hillary.