Nepal tells foreigners they can’t walk alone after years of extinction

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Climbers with long-term ambitions of climbing Nepal’s highest peaks alone may have to reconsider their plans. The country has announced that, starting next month, solo tours will be banned in all national parks, after many foreign nationals have disappeared over the years while navigating the treacherous terrain of Nepal.

Under the new policy, foreign nationals traveling alone or in groups, regardless of their level of experience, must hire a licensed guide and obtain permission from a tour operator, local outlets said. The rule does not apply to Nepali nationals.

“When you travel alone, in case of an emergency there is no one to help you,” Mani R. Lamichane, director of the Nepal Tourism Board, told CNN. “It is fine if they are traveling in the cities, but in the remote mountains, the infrastructure is not adequate. “

“When tourists go missing or are found dead, even the government cannot track them because they have taken remote routes,” he said.

“This decision has been taken for the benefit of tourists,” he told Indian news agency ANI.

The Nepal Tourism Board announced its decision earlier this month, and the ban will take effect on April 1.

The board said it had decided to extend the previous ban on solo trekking on Mount Everest to the entire country to prevent inexperienced tourists from entering. your accidents or going missing on trips.

Local guides say that about a dozen hikers go missing on Nepalese soil every year. Even when they are found, authorities say it is too expensive to save them and that it can sometimes be impossible on remote terrain.

Mount Everest has become so crowded that climbers are dying in the traffic jams

As travel has become more accessible and the popularity of mountaineering has increased worldwide, countries such as Nepal – which has at least parts of eight of the world’s 10 highest mountains – have within its limits – exceeded. This has led to previously unimaginable scenes, such as traffic jams on Mount Everest that can be dangerous for tired climbers, forcing them to spend more time at very high altitudes and depriving them of oxygen.

In 2019, around 300,000 trekkers traveled to Nepal, pre-pandemic figures from the government presentation. About 46,000 went on solo tours, Lamichane of the Nepal Tourism Board told The New York Times. Many of these travelers prefer to walk alone to save money or because they value the freedom to explore routes without notice. But terrain conditions can be dangerous, with high altitudes and changing temperatures, and authorities say it’s easy to get lost or stuck.

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It is unclear how many foreign trekkers go missing each year in Nepal and why. Local guidelines and law enforcement have given figures of between five and 15 a year.

Some experts say lax safety standards have a place. Travel author David Ways, who runs the website, which tracks and collects individual reports of missing trekkers in Nepal, wrote to “the overall safety standard of hiking in Nepal has fallen.”

Chandra Kishor Shah, an inspector with the Nepal Tourism Police, said five to six foreign hikers go missing each year – many while walking on dangerous trails alone. “The unprepared hikers, who don’t have support guides, die because of the altitude sickness,” he said.

After a few years, the missing persons files are closed, Shah said, adding that the force is currently searching for five missing hikers from South Korea, the -India, Israel, Jordan and Malaysia. The Malaysian trekker has been missing since 2015, he said, and the tourist police are still looking for them at “the family’s request”. The other four went missing last year, mainly in the Everest and Annapurna regions, the country’s most popular trekking destinations.

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Nilhari Bastoa, president of the Nepal Trekking Organizations Association, told the Kathmandu Post that 10 to 15 trekkers go missing in Nepal every year and most are “independent trekkers gratis,” a designation given to foreigners who have received permission from authorities to walk in certain areas without restrictions without a tour group or guide.

Under the new rules, FITs must hire a licensed guide to hike within Nepal’s 12 national parks, including the country’s most popular trails, such as the 145-mile-long Annapurna Circuit.

In January, a South Korean woman in her 50s who had been hiking alone was found dead on Mount Annapurna, according to the Korea Times. Citing a representative of the World Federation of Korean Overseas Traders Association, the service said the woman, Kim Jae-soon, may have died of a heart attack caused by an illness. height

The US State Department advises Americans not to hike alone in Nepal. According to the US Embassy in Kathmandu, injured hikers in remote areas may need to be rescued by helicopter – a service that costs between $3,000 and $10,000.

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Many tourists welcomed the board’s decision, saying it was a victory for the safety of tourists and the Nepali economy. But some raised concerns that the extra cost would deter tourists from traveling to Nepal at a time when the economy has been hit hard by the pandemic. The country is among the poorest in the world, and tourism accounts for nearly 7 percent of its GDP, according to the World Bank.

Basola told the Kathmandu Post that a ban on walking alone would prevent accidents and create up to 40,000 new jobs for Nepalis. He said the ban would not have a “significant impact on the trekker’s budget,” as hiring a guide costs between $25 and $50 per day on average for typical intensive treks.

“The one-trekker, one-guide policy… generated jobs. That is good for Nepal’s economy,” said Basola.

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