Nepal’s Perplexing New Everest Rules

Nepal’s Department of Tourism has issued a set of new, head-scratching rules for the upcoming Himalayan season.

Among the new restrictions, visitors may take photographs and video but are prohibited from sharing them without permission from the Department, and maybe everyone else in the photo, too. That part isn’t clear.

This will be illegal this year: Not the line at the Khumbu Icefall, but sharing the picture. Photo: Since-Independence


The rules are basically impossible to follow, Ang Tsering Sherpa of Asian Trekking told The Kathmandu Post. Other agencies have stated that the measures “make no sense”.

Allegedly, this is supposed to protect the honor of climbers in distress or even dead bodies caught on camera. But really, it attempts to avoid a reprise of Nirmal Purja’s famous photo two years ago, showing a long line of climbers at the Hillary Step.

That image prompted a backlash toward Everest crowds and was embarrassing to Nepal. Someone in the government figured that it was better to avoid another photo like that than to try to control the number of visitors on the mountain or to assess climbers’ capabilities more strictly. That would lose revenue.

What likely started the fuss. Photo: Nirmal Purja, 2019


Most of the 11 rules are already on the books but are not enforced. Unlike the photo rule, some are sensible enough. One, for example, requires climbers to obtain a medical certificate certifying them fit enough to attempt Everest.

Another insists on clearer identification of the tasks that Sherpas will be doing. A third, more detailed debriefings to prevent fake summit claims. To avoid the insurance fraud of recent years, allegedly sick climbers should be evacuated by helicopter and taken to the hospital, not just left at the airport. It is not clear, however, how either of these will prevent fraud.

Meanwhile, expedition operators, both local and foreign, wonder what happened to the real improvements they had requested from the government. Most urgently, they urged easing the quarantine imposed on foreigners who duly arrive with a fresh negative PCR. These requests have not been addressed, so climbers heading to Nepal are assuming that they will have to quarantine in Kathmandu and are extending their stays accordingly.

Regarding the photo restriction, the smaller number of climbers on the mountain this spring likely means that the conga lines, and the embarrassing pix, will likely not occur — at least until next year.