Participants of the Everest expedition must apply for permission to publish photos of people outside their group. New regulations issued before the climbing season are designed to protect the privacy of climbers. Critics believe the authorities want to put an end to the publication of inconvenient material.
“Our law prohibits the distribution of photos and videos taken on Everest without the department's approval. But such practices have not been abandoned, "Mira Acharya, director of the climbing department at the Ministry of Tourism, told The Kathmandu Post, announcing the new regulations issued before the climbing season began.
"I am sure that officials would not allow the famous photo of the congestion in Everest that went around the world and for which the authorities took a hit" - comments Sushil Chetri, a photographer and filmmaker from Kathmandu.
In the famous photo from May 2019, in the "traffic jam" under the summit of Everest, climbers are waiting for the ascent to the highest point of the globe. In the spring of that year, 664 climbers climbed Chomolungma from Nepal, but 11 people died at the same time. According to some of the climbing community, one of the reasons for the tragedy was the excessive number of permits issued and the lack of coordination between expeditions.
"Nepal has lost its image and bans of this type are a way of dealing with such image-related situations," adds Chetri.
"Any climber is free to take and upload photos and videos of his own group or himself, but he will get a reaction from the authorities if he takes or uploads photos of other climbers without the department's approval," warns Director Acharya, arguing that it is the climbers' own rights. "We respect the personal freedom of climbers, but that does not mean that they can post photos of other people without their consent," she added.
"This means that not only amateurs but also professional photographers will not be able to take pictures" - Eric Shrestha, a photographer from Kathmandu, comments for PAP. "Will I now have to ask everyone in the photo for permission, even if they are far away in the background?" - he asks.
“It happened that climbers photographed the bodies of the dead on the trail. These photos quickly found their way to the Internet and they must have hurt the families of the deceased, ”notes Tshering Sherpa, a mountain guide from Namche Bazar, in an interview with PAP.
According to Shrestha, it will be difficult to enforce the recipe in the era of digital cameras in smartphones. "As difficult as any other new law to tackle guide insurance fraud and helicopter fraud that has almost turned into taxis," says Sherpa.
The mountain guide explains that the owners of agencies organizing expeditions underestimate the amount of guides' insurance. "Insurance for sherpas and high-altitude porters is lower than for guides, so we entered the policy as porters," he explains, adding that the clients of the expeditions do not check it.
The ministry currently requires a detailed definition of the functions of each person serving the expedition.
Another change in the regulations is to end the scam with "sky taxis" in the Himalayas. “Climbers, as well as members of the trekking groups, just pretend to feel unwell and need immediate help. A helicopter is ordered and its costs are covered by insurance companies, ”says Raj Gurung, a tourist entrepreneur from Kathmandu.
Gurung explains that Western customers are working in concert with trekking agencies, hospitals and helicopter owners. In the new climbing season, a rescue helicopter flight is to be allowed only to the most expensive, reputable hospitals, where according to officials it is more difficult to cheat.
According to journalist Christophe Noel, who conducted an investigation in 2018 into 'sky taxis' in Nepal, the scam is too lucrative and the changes in the regulations will not change the situation.
"The same will be true of GPS devices for liaison officers," says Pasang Lama, a guide from the Khumbu region. This season, GPS devices will be carried by the liaison officers who oversee the expeditions. However, most of them do not reach the Everest base camp and create fictitious reports certifying their ascents.
The gap in the system was exploited by two Indian climbers who faked the ascent to Everest in 2016. Only at the beginning of this year. the Nepalese government, after a long investigation, took away their certificates of the capture of Chomolungma.
"There will be new ways to bypass the system, the regulations alone will not change these practices without their implementation," says Lama.