As the spring climbing season approaches in Nepal, war in Ukraine has hit the local tourism industry, already struggling after two years of COVID.
Expedition outfitters in Kathmandu, including the largest, Seven Summit Treks (7ST), have seen many cancellations for the coming months.
“We’ve had a significant number of customers from Ukraine who, for sad and obvious reasons, won’t be coming,” 7ST chief executive Thaneswar Guragai told ExplorersWeb. “And the Russians aren’t coming either. Even if they find a way to get to Nepal despite the sanctions, they may have payment difficulties and the ruble has completely sunk.
Other climbers fear war will soon spread. “We had cancellations from Polish mountaineers. Some think they might be next [under attack]”, Guragai said. “We also had cancellations from Germany.
Other agencies share this pessimistic assessment.
“Our Makalu team has been cut to a minimum, and a lot of our customers are canceling because of the war,” Pioneer Adventure’s Nga Tenji told ExplorersWeb.
Lakpa Sherpa of 8K Expeditions confirms that its Ukrainian customers have all, unsurprisingly, postponed their spring trips. “A total of nine members canceled,” he told ExplorersWeb.
The tourism industry in Nepal had hoped to revive in 2022 after two years of pandemic. But the grim geopolitical situation dampened expectations. Soaring oil prices have also impacted airfares and changed the vacation plans of many hikers and mountaineers.
“Until now, we still hope that there will be enough work for all Sherpas,” Lakpa Sherpa said. “At least we still have teams out of all 8,000 in Nepal.”
Shared rope attachment
As usual, agencies based in Nepal share the responsibility of fixing the ropes on the normal routes on all trade peaks. The Nepal Expedition Operators Association credits the rope fixation on Everest-Lhotse, Manaslu and Ama Dablam. Usually one team leads, while the other agencies help with the manpower.
Once again, Seven Summit Treks does all the troubleshooting on Everest and Lhotse. They will also lead onto Annapurna and also Makalu, under local rock climbing star Sanu Sherpa. 8K Expeditions’ Lakpa Sherpa will also be working on Annapurna I, starting in early April.
Imagine Nepal’s Mingma G will lead the Dhaulagiri fixation, and Pioneer has work on probably the busiest peak (apart from Everest) this spring: Kangchenjunga.
Everest without crowds
As for Everest, 7ST estimates just over 250 total permits this spring for foreign climbers.
“In the best possible scenario, the final number of Everest permits could reach 300,” Guragai noted. “On a positive note, after the ugly, COVID-stricken 2021 season, those who come can enjoy a pleasant experience on a not-so-crowded mountain.”
Last year, despite soaring COVID cases in Nepal, Everest saw a record 408 permits issued. While a number of teams have been successful, others had to give up when some of their members caught the coronavirus.
Guragai also said that in addition to the extraordinary events of the past two years, they have noticed a slight drop in interest in some of their biggest markets, including India, due to bad press from crowds on Everest. .
“Our plan is to speed up the rope attachment as much as possible and hopefully have the mountain ready by mid-April,” Guragai said.
This will allow different expeditions to peak through different summit windows. Crowds are worse when everyone is lining up in the only two-day window available.
“It will also provide a very good chance for those considering non-O2 climbs,” Guragai pointed out.