Letter: Pressure of tourism on mountaineering

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Pressure of tourism on mountaineering

Sir: I share the concern of many mountaineers about the recent tragedy involving a commercially organised expedition on Everest (Stephen Goodwin; "Freedom to risk your life", 14 May). There may well be a case for reviewing the exploitation of the world's highest mountain, as an extension of tourism.

Anyone who has experienced a storm at - or above the South Col (8,000 metres) will be aware that natural forces of wind and weather can be more powerful than the technical skills of even the best qualified climbers.

Despite this, the incentive to succeed, to provide value for the large sums of money which commercial clients are willing to pay, may have an adverse effect on sound mountaineering judgement.

Unlike the other recent tragedies on K2, the second highest mountain, where climbers have accepted similar risks with a full awareness of the dangers of storm conditions at high altitude, clients of high mountain tourism may have neither the knowledge nor the competence to cope in bad weather.

There is no easy solution to this problem. But while agreeing that there must be, to quote Mr Goodwin, "freedom to risk your life", I suggest that the "host" country - in this case, Nepal - should be more stringent in the matter of requiring evidence of individual competence before issuing expedition permits to commercial expeditions to climb on Everest, rather than relying solely on a policy of restricting the numbers of climbers on the mountain, by exacting astronomically high fees.

John Hunt

Lord Hunt of


Aston, Oxfordshire