Nepal tells foreigners they can no longer trek alone after years of disappearing


Climbers with long-held ambitions to solo Nepal’s highest peaks may need to reconsider their plans. The country has announced that solo hiking will be banned in all national parks from next month after many foreigners have disappeared over the years while navigating Nepal’s treacherous terrain.

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

“When you travel alone, there is no one to help you in an emergency,” Mani R. Lamichhane, director of the Nepal Tourism Board, told CNN. “It’s okay if they’re in the cities, but in the remote mountains, the infrastructure isn’t good enough.”

“When tourists go missing or are found dead, not even the government can track them for taking off-road routes,” he added.

“This decision was made in favor of tourists,” he told Indian news agency ANI.

Nepal’s tourism board announced its decision earlier this month, and the ban will come into effect on April 1.

The board said it made the decision to extend a previous ban on solo trekking on Mount Everest to the whole country to prevent tourists without sufficient experience from getting into accidents or going missing on treks.

Local guides say about a dozen trekkers go missing in Nepal’s terrain every year. Even if they are found, authorities say rescuing them can be prohibitively expensive and sometimes impossible in remote terrain.

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

As travel has become more affordable and mountaineering has grown in popularity worldwide, countries like Nepal — which has at least portions of eight of the world’s ten highest mountains within its borders — have been overrun. This has led to previously unthinkable scenes, such as traffic jams on Mount Everest, which can be dangerous for weary climbers, forcing them to spend more time at very high altitudes and depriving them of oxygen.

Around 300,000 trekkers traveled to Nepal in 2019, pre-pandemic government figures show. About 46,000 made solo hikes, Lamichhane of the Nepal Tourism Board told the New York Times. Many of these travelers prefer to trek alone to save money or because they enjoy the freedom to explore off-the-beaten-track paths. But ground conditions can be dangerous, with high altitudes and fluctuating temperatures, and authorities say it’s easy to get lost or stuck.

First all-black mountaineering team on the way to Everest

It is unclear how many foreign trekkers go missing in Nepal each year and why. Local leaders and law enforcement have given figures ranging from five to 15 a year.

some experts say lax security standards play a role. Travel writer David Ways, who runs the website, which tracks and collects individual reports of missing trekkers in Nepal, wrote that “the overall standard of trekking safety in Nepal has dropped”.

Chandra Kishor Shah, an inspector with the Nepal Tourist Police, said five to six foreign trekkers go missing each year – many alone when trekking treacherous routes. “The unprepared hikers who don’t have a supportive guide die from altitude sickness,” he said.

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

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Nilhari Bastola, president of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, told the Kathmandu Post that 10 to 15 trekkers go missing in Nepal every year and that most are “free independent trekkers,” a term given to foreigners who receive permission from the authorities have Hike in certain unrestricted areas without a tour group or guide.

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

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

The US State Department advises Americans never to hike alone in Nepal. According to the US embassy in Kathmandu, trekkers injured in remote areas may need to be rescued by helicopter – a service that can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.

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Many tour operators welcomed the board’s decision, hailing it as a win for tourist safety and Nepal’s economy. However, some raised concerns that the additional 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.

Bastola told the Kathmandu Post that banning solo trekking could prevent accidents and create up to 40,000 new jobs for Nepalese. He said the ban would “not significantly impact the trekker’s budget” because hiring a guide costs an average of $25 to $50 per day for standard-intensity treks.

“The one trekker, one guide policy… will create jobs. This is good for Nepal’s economy,” said Bastola.

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