Everest South Side Climbing Permit Mess: Update and Open Letter from Ted Atkins

Everest South Side Climbing Permit Mess: Update and Open Letter from Ted Atkins

Posted: Dec 05, 2014 08:57 am EST

(Tina Sjogren) Expedition logistics are experiencing a shakeup this year. Borek Air announced they will stop supporting explorers skiing to the North Pole and Nepal Ministry recently apparently added new regulations concerning the upcoming Everest season.


Following the icefall accident and ensuing shutdown of Everest south side last spring, Nepal Ministry of Tourism in an official press release extended the 2014 permit fees ($10,000 per climber) to be valid for the next five years. At the time the ministry urged all expeditions to continue ascent but in the end some Sherpas reportedly opposed the climbs and forced a situation where all expeditions had to leave.


An extension of permits was logical and the rules seemed straightforward until Himalayan Times the other week wrote that "the same members of the expedition will have to scale Mt Everest together within the next five years." And, "If even one member of an expedition scales the mountain, permits of others will be cancelled".


One team already affected is Mark Woodward's expedition who according to Himalayan Times lost the permit for 7 of its members when Wang Jing from China reportedly summited Everest last May after bypassing the closure by taking a chopper to Camp 2.


Interestingly, the paper also reports that 10 climbers sharing a Lhotse permit with American Cleo Weidlich could lose their permits after she too flew to Camp 2 (but didn't summit).


More than 300 climbers will be affected by the rules. Gathering the exact same team of international climbers for any of the upcoming seasons will be very hard, if not impossible.


Outfitters ExplorersWeb talked to said nobody really knows what's going on. Some organizers have asked the government agency to reconsider but received no official replies yet. Last week Ted Atkins of Topout mountaineering oxygen systems circulated the following statement, directed to the ministry. 


Open Letter: "Don't kill the golden goose"

(By Ted Atkins)


"There is an old story in the West that you may know about a goose that laid a golden egg. It is a sad story that starts wonderfully, it goes like this- 


There was a goose that laid a golden egg every day. This made the owner rich and his village prosperous. That is until the owner decided that if a golden egg came every day then the inside of the goose must be full of gold. So he killed the goose and cut it open to get the gold because one egg a day was no longer enough for him. Yes of course there was no gold and now there was no goose.

I often relate this story to Nepal. The climbers and tourists are your geese and for sure the golden eggs have been laid, more for some than others, but like in the village above the prosperity can be seen to be shared.

I must get to my point now. This has been a terrible year for Nepal and Nepal tourism. The deaths in the mountains have changed the lives of so many and it must be said has made some people afraid, afraid to come here. Even before these events I was starting to hear people say that they would not visit Nepal again for various reasons. Being in the heart of the climbing industry I get a lot of feedback from your visitors. A goose may only lay one golden egg but Everest is a goldmine. Like the goose it needs to be kept alive to keep producing the gold. A permit to climb Everest (from Nepal) costs $10,000 (next season, $11,000 ). This is a lot of money for anyone. It is much more money than it is to climb from Tibet on the same mountain, to stand on the same summit.

So as grown up people let’s take a look at the deal, what do we get for our money.

From Tibet your $7,200 permit gets you: All jeep transport for team and support, trucks for your gear to Base Camp, Yaks to Advance Base Camp, all food and accommodation up to Advance Base Camp.

A Nepalese permit for $11,000 gets you: a worthless piece of paper with your incorrectly spelt name on it.

My understanding is that all the people who paid the permit fee last season and never got to climb the mountain have not been treated fairly. They tell me this. I am told but cannot confirm that the deal being offered by the government (I have written separately to the Minsters concerned and await a reply) is that they can come back to climb again and not pay, but only against one permit. That is to say that if there are 10 names on a permit and only one person comes back to climb next year then the permit is closed for the other 9 people.


Now even this is not easily confirmed and even the industry does not know what is happening or may happen. I know what is happening for these people who paid; they feel cheated. They are so outraged by this situation that some are saying that they will never return. This is so easily fixed, try this. Every person who paid the government is registered as having paid. They can come back any time and redeem the permit that they paid for and climb the mountain to realize their dreams.


If anyone thinks for one moment that these people can be cheated and that they will come back and pay again, then they must be MAD. What will happen is that they will not come back, they will tell others what happened and they will not visit. The final losses in revenue to the state and in wages and sustenance to the people in the industry will be huge and it will be too late to fix. The time is now. Plans are being made by climbers now. Nepal can win the day. Make the statement. A clear and unambiguous statement that these mountaineers are honoured guests who have paid and are welcome. It just takes one smart person with some vision to say lets do this. I understand that there has been a change in the ministry and that these good people will fix this situation; for these guests and for the honour of Nepal.

In the West where most of these people come from if you pay for something that you do not receive, that is withheld or taken from you it is considered theft. I am sure it is the same situation in Nepal. The Nepalese are honourable people; considered so by the whole world. Now is your chance to change this. Do nothing, hope these insane people will just pay again and forget; but trust me the honour of Nepal will be damaged beyond repair.

I learned some time ago that reputations are hard won and easily lost, now is the time, Carpe Diem ‘seize the moment’ or pay the price. I don’t think you understand what is waiting next season if this is not resolved now.

I have a rule of business that I consider the first rule of business; never make an existing customer look anywhere else. You have this customer. Please don’t kill the goose."

An Aero Systems Engineering Officer working with the RAF Mountain Rescue Service, Ted Atkins can be found at 
Topout Oxygeneering Ltd www.topout.co.uk 




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Ted Atkins
Press Release offering 5 years extension last spring.