A photo of a human traffic jam at the summit of Mount Everest went viral last week. 11 climbers lost their lives in the congestion. The Nepalese government issued about 380 climbing permits this year. Too many, says Pallavi Shakya. ‘It’s no surprise that queues could form.’
© Hollandse Hoogte
‘You don’t have to reach the top to feel spirituality’
‘In the severe earthquake of 2015, the most difficult part of the ascent collapsed, so a lot of people try to summit Everest now, as it has become easier. Since it’s beneficial for the government, they are handing out lots of permits, even to inexperienced climbers. There’s only a certain time in the year when conditions are suitable, so it’s no surprise that queues could form on the mountain.
Frankly, most Nepalese people aren’t interested in climbing Everest, mainly because of the costs. Permits are cheaper for us than for foreigners, but living conditions are difficult in Nepal, especially after the earthquake in which many people lost their homes. So people are more focused on sustaining themselves.
There’s this Buddhist practice called Vipassana. Its core philosophy is that everything is impermanent. In meditation, you pay attention to your body and breath. You endure pain and see it as something temporary. Perhaps mountaineering is also a form of meditation, as you seek the adverse conditions in high altitudes and then endure them. It’s just that I find the western way to be very goal-oriented. In Nepal, we believe that you don’t really have to reach the top to feel spirituality.
In a way, if the routes on Everest are well managed, it could be a good way for the government and local climbing firms to earn money. But I think there should be limits to the number of people allowed, and tests so that only experienced climbers can go up. There are so many mountains to climb; inexperienced climbers could practise on those.’