Nepal has issued 463 climbing permits for Mount Everest for this year’s summit season — the most in its history — despite fears of overcrowding on the world’s tallest mountain that has resulted in deaths in the past.
The Nepal Tourism Board said permits were issued to 367 male and 96 female climbers from 65 countries, including one each from the UAE, to scale Sagarmatha — the Nepalese name for Mount Everest.
The reason given for the record number of permits is the easing of restrictions imposed when the Covid pandemic broke out three years ago.
Mountaineers from around the world travel to the small Himalayan nation every spring to attempt to climb the 8,849-metre mountain which lies between Nepal and Tibet, an autonomous region of China.
Trekking begins in March but hundreds of mountaineers arrive in May, when temperatures are warmer on the highest section of the mountain, usually offering a couple of windows for good weather for climbers to reach the summit.
The climbers along with their Nepalese guides, or Sherpas, spend nearly two weeks hiking to the Everest base camp, which sits at an altitude of almost 5,200 metres.
There, they acclimatise for two weeks while waiting for good weather before continuing on to higher camps en route to the summit.
But the record number of permits this year has raised concerns about adding to overcrowding on the mountain.
In 2019, when 380 permits were issued, overcrowding caused “traffic jams” on Everest that forced climbers to wait for hours in freezing temperatures to make the summit.
The delay caused their oxygen levels drop, leading to sickness and exhaustion.
At least seven climbers including three Indians died during their descent because of delays caused by long queues as hundreds lined on the route to the mountain top.
Mountaineering in Nepal, home to eight of the 10 highest mountains in the world, has become a lucrative business since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the first ascent of Everest in 1953.
It generates employment for large number of people including guides, hoteliers and restaurateurs and revenue for the government. Each permit costs $11,000.
Three Sherpa climbers died this month after falling into a deep crevasse when an avalanche struck between the mountain's base camp and Camp I.