Absolutely, I would say there is. There is much more crowding on the Nepal side than the Tibet side, but both have crowding issues. The challenge is that, at least where Nepal is concerned, Everest brings in a huge amount of revenue for the country. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia and the average per capita income is less than $500. Everest attracts climbers and trekkers to the country. As far as the climbers, go each person is required to pay $10,000 for their climbing permit. But the value of Everest to the country does not end there. Each climber then spends thousands of dollars on food, accommodation, transportation, porters, climbing Sherpas and a myriad of other things. Everest is immensely important to the economy of Nepal and I do not see limits to the number of climbers any time soon.
Based on this understanding, it is in Nepal’s best interest to sell as many permits as possible. The more people, the more money. The Ministry of Tourism is not really concerned with crowding issues, mountain logistics, or even the competency of the climbers. They leave this to the guiding companies and the various outfitters that run trips on the mountain.
In an open market economy, I think there is very little that can be done to curb the number of people going to the mountain. Even if some guiding companies limit the number of climbers per team, and many do, there will always more guides who want into this very lucrative game.
As I have stated in previous postings, inexperienced climbers add to the congestion. Inexperienced climbers tend to move more slowly than experienced ones, and they slow down, even more, when a technical situation is encountered. Everest is a huge mountain and can accommodate a large number of people, but there are bottlenecks on the way to the summit. When one person in the line slows down, everyone behind them must slow down just, as happens in any traffic jam.
Something that many people may not know, and that adds greatly to the crowding issue on Everest is that there are at least as many, if not more, Sherpas than climbers on the mountain. The old days of the self-reliant climbing teams doing their share of the load-carrying are long gone, at least on Everest. Each team employs dozens of Sherpa’s to help with the chores on the mountain. If teams were able to handle more of this themselves they would not require as many Sherpa’s and the overall number of people on the mountain would be significantly reduced.
The double-edged sword here is that working on the mountain is a very important employment opportunity for the people of the Everest region. Without it, many families would be worse off. It would also mean that many of the people climbing Everest today (and I may even be in this group) would not be able to be successful.
Ultimately I am not in a position to say what the right number of people on the mountain is. I have no idea about that. But I can say that those who are there need to be accountable for their personal role in the crowding. If people ensure that they have the required skills, experience and fitness before they go to the mountain, this would alleviate some of the traffic jam issues. Also, if individual climbers would take accountability to step out of the line and to even turn back when moving too slowly, this congestion would be reduced and lives might be spared.
One alternative to reducing the numbers climbing at any one time is to look at climbing in different seasons. Everest has been climbed in all four seasons, but there are advantages and disadvantages to each season. The winter is extremely cold and very few climbers have the ability to work in these conditions. The summer brings the monsoon with heavy snows and rain and this presents many safety issues. The fall climbing season is post-monsoon and usually presents deep snow conditions, avalanche hazards, and temperatures trending colder as the winter approaches. The spring season, the pre-monsoon season as it is called, has proven statistically to be the safest and the most successful and therefore this will attract the highest number of people.
There is never going to be a perfect solution to the crowds on Everest and I do not see limitations or qualifications being required by Nepal. It is up to everyone involved to be personally accountable for their role in the crowding and to take steps to reduce the impact this is having on safety on the mountain.