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Foreign climbers stranded on Mt Manaslu

Kathmandu, September 10

Hundreds of foreign climbers and their support staffers have been stranded on the world’s eighth highest peak in western Nepal after expedition handling agencies failed to supply necessary logistics, including foodstuff to the Mt Manaslu region.

Expedition handling agencies said they failed to charter helicopters to ferry climbing logistics to the mountain region while helicopter operators blamed the government for the prolonged crisis.

Mingma Sherpa, managing director at Seven Summit Treks, said expedition operators couldn’t manage chartered flights to the Manaslu region due to unavailability of helicopters. Over 100 climbers and support staffers from his company have been stranded due to lack of food and other logistics in Mt Manaslu region, he informed.

“The crisis further worsened after the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation barred three operators – Heli Everest, Manang Air and Air Dynasty – from flying to restricted areas, including Mt Manaslu region, while other helicopter operators have had to wait for over a week to get permission from different agencies to provide the services,” Sherpa, who is also a board director at Heli Everest, added. “We have been wearing the same clothes for over a week now,” an American climber, who talked over phone from Samagaun, said. His climbing guide Nawal Gyaljen Sherpa said that most expedition teams had already run out of food and other stuff. Lack of food and clothes has hit a group of Chinese climbers hard in Samagaun and the base camp, Nima Namgyal Sherpa, managing director at Kaitu Expedition Pvt Ltd said. Besides a lengthy process for getting flight permission in Kathmandu, operators often find a very short weather window to conduct flights in the mountain region, he added.

Helicopters are the only means of transport for ferrying climbing logistics to Samagaun as well as the Manaslu base camp from Kathmandu and Arughat in Gorkha. “It’s a horrible experience on Mt Manaslu this time,” an expedition leader who has already reached base camp said. If such a situation persists for long, it would have detrimental effects on the country’s plan to welcome two million tourists by 2020, he said.

Pasang Sherpa, managing director at Pioneer Adventure Pvt Ltd, said his company couldn’t supply food to the climbers due to lack of helicopters. “Our team has already reached the base camp but their climbing logistics and foodstuff have been stuck at Arughat for over a week,” he said, adding that vegetables worth millions of rupees had already rotten.

When contacted, MoCTCA secretary Krishna Devkota refused to comment. A senior official at the ministry, however, claimed that three helicopter companies were barred from flying to the restricted zones on the secretary’s verbal order. “The ministry is working to resolve the crisis as soon as possible,” he added.

According to the Department of Tourism, more than 250 foreign climbers, along with over 500 support staffers have headed to the Manaslu region to attempt to climb the mountain this autumn.

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