This month, Japanese mountaineer Nobukazu Kuriki became the first person to attempt an ascent of Mount Everest since the devastating earthquake in April, which claimed the lives of 9,000 people.
It was his fifth push to reach the summit in six years, something he continued pursuing despite losing nine fingers to frostbite in 2012.
Climbing alone, the 33-year-old endeavoured to get to the top of the 8,848-metre peak on September 26, but was forced to turn back on the final leg because of deep snow.
Last February, in an effort to attract more climbers to the mountain, Nepal slashed permits for single foreigners from US$25,000 to US$11,000. However, there were concerns about this encouraging dangerous solo ascents.
Between 1953 (when it was first conquered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay) and 2013, there have been 6,854 successful attempts on the summit – roughly 114 a year.
The route has become increasingly congested, though. Compared with 1983, when the greatest number of successful ascents in a single day was eight; in 2012 there were 234.
The Nepalese government earns more than US$3 million a year from climbing fees, with tens of thousands of locals depending on it for associated jobs in hospitality, guiding and portering.
As a consequence, Everest remains vital to the economy – last year, the GNI (gross national income per capita) for Nepalese people was just US$730 a year.
Six months after the quake, adventure tour operator Journeys International has announced two new trips to the country.
Robin Weber Pollak, president of Journeys International, said, “Nepal’s economy is tourism-based. Especially after all tours were suspended during peak 2015 tourism months, one of the most important things we can do is inspire travelers to return to Nepal for their 2016 vacations. It’s a bonus if we can provide direct assistance with the rebuilding efforts.”
So far the company has raised US$75,000 for the relief effort, and has created two new itineraries for volunteers to help directly.
“Hands on the Himalayas – post-earthquake rebuilding in Sagarmatha District, plus the best of Kathmandu” is an 11-day trip available from March 7, 2016, to March 23, 2017.
The website reads: “Throughout your trek, you’ll meet with and eat with local villagers and hear their stories while learning about their way of life.
“At most villages, you’ll also spend time volunteering, whether it’s rebuilding a house, hauling supplies, or painting a school.” The price is US$3,400 plus a US$400 single supplement.
“Nepal Family Adventure – hiking, rafting, wildlife safaris, ancient villages and cultures” also runs for 11 days, from December 21, 2015, to December 29, 2016. The price is US$2,900-US$3500.
Journeys International’s Kathmandu-based managing director, Narayan Shrestha, is supervising Journeys Nepal relief efforts and will be on the Hands on the Himalaya trip.
He recently posted on Facebook: “I cry when I see these places, where houses are gone and families are dead. But I am so happy [that] because of the Journeys family I am able to help some victims.”