The country of Nepal banned solo mountaineers from climbing Mount Everest in 2019. Now, the country’s government has announced solo adventurers from other countries will not be able to hike or climb mountains throughout Nepal’s national parks on their own.
Instead, they will need to hire a government-licensed guide or join a guided group.
Under the new provision, which takes effect April 1, 2023, “all trekkers are required to obtain services of licensed trekking guides and to obtain a TIMS Card through authorized trekking agencies registered with the Government of Nepal,” the Nepal Tourism Board announced.
A TIMS, or Trekkers Information Management System, card is a basic trekking permit that is required for foreign tourists.
The decision will help “mitigate adverse incidents like getting lost enroute, health issues, and/or natural disasters,” the Nepal Tourism Board continued. “With this implementation, trekkers will have immediate access to the professional support system and will help in addressing challenges of rescue operations in case of unwarranted situations.”
Nepal’s Appeal For Mountaineers
Nepal, located between India and China, contains most of the Himalayas, the highest mountain range in the world. To put that in perspective, there are more than 110 peaks rising to elevations of 24,000 feet or more in Nepal and eight of the world’s 10 tallest mountains are at least partly in Nepal.
Those mountains include Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world with an elevation of 29,029 feet, as well as the 28,169-foot Kanchenjunga and the 27,940-foot Lhotse.
In 2019, Nepal’s government reported that more than 400,000 tourists traveled to the country’s national parks for mountaineering and trekking, according to The New York Times. Most of those climbers were from the United States, Britain, China, Germany, India, and Japan.
Of that number, about 46,000 of them were traveling alone, according to Nepal Tourism Board Director Mani R. Lamichhane, The New York Times reports. Last year, as the country’s tourism industry was still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, there were about 22,000 solo trekkers in Nepal.
Why The Restriction Is Needed
Nepal’s remoteness is a double-edged sword. The chance to explore, climb mountains, and be totally self-reliant is appealing to some people. The flip side of the coin, however, is that such remoteness also means that the cost of search-and-rescue operations for missing hikers is significantly expensive.
“When you are traveling solo, in case of emergencies, there is no one to help you,” Lamichhane told CNN.
“That’s fine if they are traveling in the cities, but in the remote mountains, the infrastructure is not adequate,” Lamichhane continued. “When tourists go missing or they are found dead, even the government cannot track them because they have taken remote routes.”
Lamichhane also told The New York Times that “there are many cases where tourists have disappeared,” and that deadly incidents involving solo trekkers had given some tourists the misconception that Nepal was an unsafe destination. The decision to ban solo travel within the country’s national parks will help address that situation.
An Expected Response
While some trekkers enjoy being alone, are on a limited budget, or both, they may be upset with the policy change. Tour companies, on the other hand, applaud the change.
Ian Taylor, who owns a guiding company called Ian Taylor Trekking operating in Nepal, noted that guides and those who love climbing mountains never want to see access to mountains being restricted. At the same time, he also said the situation in Nepal has “drastically” changed in recent years, CNN reports.
“You used to see only experienced hikers and climbers in the region, many of them traveling without guides, and they were completely self-sufficient,” Taylor said. “However, now, there are far greater numbers of people traveling in the region and more of them are tourists, not trekkers. They are not self-sufficient in the outdoors and therefore need the assistance of experienced guides.”
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