In an effort to address mounting concerns over traffic jams and climber safety on Mount Everest, the Nepalese government announced new permitting regulations on Wednesday with the express goal of reducing the number of climbers on the world’s tallest peak at any given time.
The news comes in the wake of what’s been called one of the deadliest climbing seasons in Everest history during which eleven climbers were either killed or went missing in May alone.
Overcrowding concerns came to a head after photographer and mountaineer Nirmal Purja posted a photo earlier this year to Facebook of hundreds of climbers clinging to a ridge line in an Everest traffic jam. The image went viral.
Along with unveiling the new regulations, Nepalese officials also described the findings from a government investigation into deaths on the mountain this year. They were quick to point out that none were directly caused by traffic jams.
“Climbers died due to altitude sickness, heart attack, exhaustion or weaknesses, and not due to traffic jams,” Mira Acharya, a member of the investigatory panel told The Guardian.
Now, in order to obtain a permit, Nepalese officials say, climbers will need to have climbed another Nepalese peak of over 6,500 meters (21,325 feet), submit proof of a clean bill of health and physical fitness, and be accompanied by a trained local guide.
“Everest cannot be climbed just based on one’s wishes,” said Nepal’s tourism minister Yogesh Bhattarai at a news conference, according to the New York Times. “We are testing their health conditions and climbing skills before issuing climbing permits.”
In addition, the Times states clients of expedition outfits must also demonstrate, before climbing they’ve paid at least $35,000 for the expedition. The move hopes to discourage rogue expedition companies from deadly cost-cutting.
The new rules stop short of capping the number of climbers able to obtain permits. Last year, a record 381 climbers reportedly were issued permits.
Some in the climbing community argue the regulations don’t go quite far enough to fight the root problem of inexperience on the mountain. Others say it’s a step in the right direction.
According to Ghanshyam Upadhyaya, a senior tourism ministry official, the new proposed regulations will soon be enshrined in law in time for next year’s Everest climbing season.