Nepal mulls minimum Everest criteria after deadly season

Light illuminates Mount Everest, center, during sunset in Solukhumbu district, also known as the Everest region. (Reuters)
Updated 14 August 2019

Nepal mulls minimum Everest criteria after deadly season

  • Report recommended minimum standards for climbers, expedition organizers as well as guides and government liaison officers involved in Nepal’s lucrative mountaineering industry
  • Nine of the 11 deaths were on the Nepal side of Everest, and at least four of the deaths this season were blamed on overcrowding

KATMANDU: Climbers wanting to take on Mount Everest will first have to tackle another Nepal mountain of at least 6,500 meters (21,325 feet) under new proposals by a committee seeking to improve safety on the world’s highest peak.
The requirement is being proposed after a deadly traffic-clogged season saw 11 climbers die on Everest, which some experts blamed on inexperience.
“These recommendations have been made to ensure the quality and safety of Nepal’s mountaineering tourism,” Ghanshyam Upadhayay, tourism ministry official and head of the committee told AFP.
The committee also proposed a fee of at least $35,000 for Everest and $20,000 for other mountains over 8,000 meters, amid criticism that cost-cutting by expedition organizers was jeopardizing climbers’ safety.
The 59-page report recommended minimum standards for climbers, expedition organizers as well as guides and government liaison officers involved in Nepal’s lucrative mountaineering industry.
“We will take this forward by amending the laws and regulations... we will make our mountains safe, managed and dignified,” Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattari told reporters.
For years, Katmandu has issued Everest permits to anyone willing to pay $11,000, regardless of whether they were rookie climbers or skilled mountaineers.
This year record 885 people climbed Everest, 644 of them from the south and 241 from the northern flank in Tibet.
Nine of the 11 deaths were on the Nepal side, and at least four of the deaths this season were blamed on overcrowding.
A traffic jam forced teams to wait for hours in freezing temperatures to reach Everest’s 8,848-meter (29,029 feet) summit and then descend, increasing the risk of frostbite, altitude sickness and exhaustion from depleted oxygen levels.
But experts say the bigger killer was inexperience among a new wave of ill-prepared mountaineer tourists.
“This is a good opportunity to improve the sector. If we want things to change the suggestions have to be implemented,” said Santa Bir Lama, president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, who was also part of the committee.
Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks, and foreign climbers that flock to its mountains are a major source of revenue for the country.


US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

Updated 57 min 46 sec ago

US passes 9 million coronavirus cases as infections spike

  • On Friday the US set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours
  • More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began

WASHINGTON: The United States passed nine million reported coronavirus cases on Friday and broke its own record for daily new infections for the second day in a row, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, as Covid-19 surges days before the country chooses its next president.
The US, which has seen a resurgence of its outbreak since mid-October, has now notched up 9,034,295 cases, according to a real-time count by the Baltimore-based school.
On Friday the country set a record for new daily infections of more than 94,000 in 24 hours, breaking the record of 91,000 it had set just one day earlier.
With the virus spreading most rampantly in the Midwest and the South, hospitals are also filling up again, stretching the health care system just as the nation heads in to flu season.
"We are not ready for this wave," Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University school of public health, warned on ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday.

COVID-19 tally by the John Hopkins University of Medicine as of October 30, 2020.

Authorities in El Paso, Texas, imposed a curfew this week to protect "overwhelmed" health care workers and began setting up field hospitals.
But a judge's attempt to shut down non-essential businesses in the city has been challenged by the mayor and the state's attorney general, the Washington Post reported.
Midwestern state Wisconsin has also set up a field hospital in recent weeks, and hospital workers in Missouri were sounding warning bells as cases rise.
Hospitals in the western state of Utah were preparing to ration care by as early as next week as patients flood their ICUs, according to local media.
The pattern of the pandemic so far shows that hospitalizations usually begin to rise several weeks after infections, and deaths a few weeks after that.
More than 229,000 people have died of the virus in the US since the pandemic began, the Hopkins tally showed as of Friday, with the daily number of deaths creeping steadily upwards in recent weeks also -- though at present it remains below peak levels.
For months public health officials have been warning of a surge in cases as cooler fall weather settles over the US, driving more people indoors.
As the weather changes, New York and other parts of the northeast, which were the epicenter of the US outbreak in the spring but largely controlled the virus over the summer, were reporting a worrying rise.
Some epidemiologists believe that Covid-19 spreads more easily in drier, cool air.
Rural areas, which in the spring appeared to be getting off lightly compared to crowded cities, were also facing spikes with states like North Dakota charting one of the steepest rises in recent weeks.
The state is so overwhelmed that earlier this month it told residents they have to do their own contact tracing, local media reported.
With four days to go until the election, Donald Trump was battling to hold on to the White House against challenger Joe Biden, who has slammed the president's virus response.
"It is as severe an indictment of a president's record as one can possibly imagine, and it is utterly disqualifying," Biden said Friday as the toll passed nine million.
Trump downplays the virus even as the toll has been accelerating once more, holding a slew of rallies with little social distancing or mask use.
He has repeatedly told supporters that the country is "rounding the curve" on Covid infections.
But Americans, wary of crowded polling booths on Election Day as the virus spreads, are voting early in record numbers.