Mountaineering: Mount Everest: Tracking device will soon be mandatory

Mount Everest attracts people from all over the world.

Mountaineering: Mount Everest: Tracking device will soon be mandatory

Mount Everest attracts people from all over the world. They want to overcome boundaries, have adventures, set records or achieve fame. But if you want to reach the highest peak in the world, you also have to trudge past corpses. On frozen bodies of people who died on the mountain. It is estimated that around 200 people are dead there because rescue operations at high altitudes are difficult and expensive.

Some of these climbers might have been saved if they had been equipped with a tracking device. At least that's what the head of the mountaineering department of the Nepalese tourism authority, Rakesh Gurung, says in an interview with the German Press Agency. From Nepal, the vast majority of people climb Mount Everest, which is on the border with China and can also be climbed from there.

In the future, everyone starting in Nepal will have to wear a reflector the size of chewing gum from the Swedish company Recco. It is often sewn into sports clothing, works without a battery and can send back a radar signal from a search device from the same company, enabling location - and possibly rescue.

Use of the devices limited

In addition to Mount Everest, the new regulation affects around 400 other mountains for which an official climbing permit is required. It comes into force a year after a particularly deadly mountaineering season in which 18 people died on the almost 8,850 meter high Everest. The president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, Nima Nuru Sherpa, welcomes the measure. His and several other expedition organizers were already using Recco reflectors, satellite phones and portable radio transmitters. He emphasizes that missing people in the Himalayas have already been found using Swedish technology.

But not everyone is convinced that the devices actually significantly increase security. They are particularly suitable for searching for people buried in avalanches in ski resorts and have already saved lives in the Alps, explain the head of Nepal's largest expedition company Seven Summit Treks, Mingma Sherpa, as well as the US mountaineer and blogger Alan Arnette. But the detectors can hardly find people who are under boulders or in a deep crevice - as is often the case with missing people at 8,000 meters in the Himalayas.

Arnette compares searching for missing people with a special helicopter on the great Mount Everest to finding a needle in a haystack. And an expedition organizer in the capital Kathmandu, who wishes to remain anonymous, emphasizes that electronic devices sometimes fail in the harsh conditions on the high mountains: "Authority officials make these crazy rules without any idea."

Experience and good mountain guides are important

To increase the chances of survival on Everest, Arnette has other suggestions: Nepal could only allow climbers to the top who have already climbed a 7,000 meter high mountain. Or they could specify minimum qualifications for mountain guides so that they never leave their customers alone, recognize warning signs early and, if necessary, turn back early. Or they could limit group size. Many inexperienced people on the mountain would increase the risk of traffic jams and thus the risk of death, confirms Nepalese mountain guide Narendra Shahi Thakuri. And especially at altitudes above 8,000 meters - the so-called death zone - you should only stay as short as possible, as your body becomes weaker and weaker there and cannot recover.

But such suggestions are likely to fall on deaf ears. The income from the many wealthy tourists is important for the poor Himalayan state. A climb to Everest usually costs at least 40,000 euros per person - often twice as much. In addition to the local team of helpers who guide, carry luggage and cook, this also includes accommodation, flight costs and equipment including oxygen cylinders as well as the fee for an official climbing permit of 11,000 dollars (around 10,000 euros).

And expedition companies are organizing more and more package trips to the roof of the world - even for customers without mountaineering experience. In view of the great demand, some organizers are now also recruiting local mountain guides and porters with little experience, according to the mountaineering community. It remains to be seen whether the newly mandatory technology actually increases safety in light of these developments: the main Everest season begins in a few weeks.

FAQ about Recco technology Recco technology explains Alan Arnette as the new regulation