Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] Mt Everest: Overcrowding at the top of the world must be regulated

In recent times, there is a huge number of mountain climbers willing to climb Mount Everest. These increase in climbers can be accounted to high disposable income, poorly judged personal ambitions and lack of preparatory efforts.
By IASToppers
August 15, 2019


  • Introduction
  • High footfall on Mt. Everest
  • Background
  • Consequences of congestion
  • Challenges: Governance and sustainability
  • Significance for Nepal
  • Trend of Tourists
  • Suggestion
  • Conclusion
  • IT’s Input
    • Location of Mount Everest
    • What are Seven Summits?

Mt Everest: Overcrowding at the top of the world must be regulated

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  • Mountaineering had always been an exclusive activity, accessible only to a few who had the specialised skills and years of experience.
  • However, this has changed significantly.

High footfall on Mt. Everest

High footfall iastoppers

  • In recent times, there is a huge number of mountain climbers willing to climb Mount Everest
  • These increase in climbers can be accounted to high disposable income, poorly judged personal ambitions and lack of preparatory efforts.
  • While the increased number of hikers helped to earn a better living for Sherpas (ethnic groups native to the mountainous regions of Nepal and the Himalayas), it is creating several problems as well.


Background iastoppers

  • After the first summiting of Everest in 1953, there were only few professional mountaineers who climb it in the subsequent decades.
  • In 1980s, the 7-summit challenge, coined by Italian mountaineer Richard Messner and first accomplished by the American Richard Bass, became popular.
  • Subsequently, after the Chinese government, the Nepalese government also started issuing more permits since the beginning of the 1990s.
  • The infrastructure and the allied services around these expeditions began formalising to meet a growing demand of enthusiasts.
  • Fewer than 2,000 people had climbed the Everest in the 1980s, but more than 4,000 did in each of the following decades.

Consequences of congestion 

Sever weather:

  • Sever weather can lead to a congested traffic of climbers at the heights of 8,000 metres and above, exhausting climber’s supply of oxygen.
  • This creates a fatal situation as an average human can only metabolise 30 per cent of the oxygen than the usual intake and metabolism at sea level.
  • Often, inexperienced climbers succumb to the fatigue, start hallucinating and ultimately die from exhaustion or fall.
  • As many as 11 climbers died in this process, making the spring of 2019 the deadliest season since 2015.

Waste Generation:

  • The Everest Base Camp (EBC) has seen a surge in the amount of waste that gets generated every year at the start of a climbing season.
  • Every village en route EBC have a landfill, creating a health hazard during the monsoonal months.
  • Recently, the Nepalese government carried out an expedition to the Everest with sole purpose of collecting trash.

Cheap expeditions

  • The commercialisation of these expeditions increased the competition among the tour operators which has paved the way for more economical expeditions.

Challenges: Governance and sustainability

Governance and sustainability iastoppers

  • The two most popular routes to the Everest are along the Southeast Ridge (Nepal) and Northeast Ridge (Tibet).
  • While the traffic of climbers through Nepal has traditionally been higher, many expedition companies are shifting their operations to Tibet due to poor regulations and overcrowding on the south side.
  • The proactive steps taken by the government in enforcing regulations in the Tibetan side have been instrumental in keeping the traffic of climbers on the north-eastern ridge uncongested.
  • On the other side, Nepal not only have have weak regulations but it also lags behind in implementation of such regulations.
  • For example, it is mandatory for each climber to fetch 8 kgs of garbage or the mandatory deposit of $4,000 for garbage management would be forfeited. This shows the weakness of the law.
  • Moreover, the Everest permits in Nepal are issued by the tourism department and therefore it is reluctant to curb the footfall as it fears harming its overall economy.

Significance for Nepal

  • Nepal benefits immensely by controlling the southeast route to the Everest summit.
  • The annual revenue that is collected by the government amounts to Rs 27 crore through the allocation of Everest permits alone.
  • This represents more than 75 per cent of the total revenue that is generated through permits for all the peaks in Nepal.
  • The Khumbu region of Nepal that acts as a gateway to the Everest has benefited immensely from the traffic of visitors who come to hike and experience the surreal landscape.
  • This has generated employment and cash flow and has improved the economic wellbeing of the region.

Trend of Tourists

Trend of Tourists iastoppers

  • Traditionally, climbers from the United States, United Kingdom and Japan have climbed Everest.
  • However, in recent years, there is a growing increase in the number of expeditioners from Asia, mainly Indians and Chinese, along with the Russians.
  • The above graph shows that the percentage share of expeditioners to the Everest from China and India have started growing since the 1994 to 1998.
  • Some observers attribute this trend to the growing middle class in India and China and link it to the rise of budget expedition firms.
  • However, percentage share of climbers from the US and UK, shows a decreasing trend since the 2004-2008 and 2009-2013.


  • Nepal needs to be proactive in safeguarding a tourism industry that is centred on Mount Everest.
  • Stringent rules and strong law enforcement need to be at the core of a regulatory framework that would govern the expeditions to the summit.
  • The permits to climb the summit should be restricted to only those who are adequately trained and experienced to undertake such an expedition.
  • The Department of Tourism needs to adopt sustainability as a necessary ingredient in all its planning and implementation.


  • With the footfall of tourists stated to increase at the Everest, it becomes imperative to critically appraise the regulations that govern these expeditions.
  • Also, it is necessary to regulate the flow of traffic through judicious use of regulatory instruments and a conscious effort by all stakeholders.

IT’s Input

Location of Mount Everest

Mount Everest iastoppers

  • Mount Everest is located on the border between Tibet and Nepal in the Himalayas in Asia.
  • It is situated in the Mahalangur Range on the Tibetan Plateau known as Qing Zang Gaoyuan.
  • On the Nepal side, Mount Everest is located in the Sagarmatha National Park in the Solukhumbu District. On the Tibetan side, it is located in Tingri County in the Xigaze area.

What are Seven Summits?

The Seven Summits are the highest mountains of each of the seven continents. Summiting all of them is regarded as a mountaineering challenge.

  • Everest (Asia)
  • Kosciuszko (Australia)
  • Aconcagua (South America)
  • Vinson Massif (Antarctica)
  • Denali (North America)
  • Elbrus (Europe)
  • Kilimanjaro (Africa)


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