Permit and Paperwork

The splendid freedom and serenity of the vast, white planes in alpine climbing is a total opposite to the work you need to put in before you get there. Let's talk Nepal Ministry and Administration. Even though the Ministry actually acts pleasantly towards climbers, you will still face the Asian bureaucracy and culture of numerous people wanting a piece of the cake when organizing your expedition in Nepal.

That's why it is essential to work with a local Trekking Agency. They will provide you with the papers and get you the appointments necessary.

As an expedition leader you will file for a permit through the agency. Do it well in time (preferably 6 months prior to the expedition), enclose a passport copy, passport pictures and a Letter of Recommendation from your local Alpine Association/Climbing club.

If you are a leader, the association also needs you to specify that you will be appropriate for that position. Here is an example of an alpine club recommendation letter:

Letter of recommendation

"The ............(your country) Climbing Association has been asked to write a letter of recommendation for Mr/Ms.....................(your name) that is planning to climb Mount Everest in the spring of 2000.

The .................(your country) Climbing Association is pleased to recommend this climber, who is, to our knowledge, an experienced mountaineer with previous experience from high altitude mountaineering.

He/she have experience as a leader of earlier high altitude expeditions and will be, to our knowledge, suitable as an expedition leader."

Signed and dated by.....................

Now, what do THEY know about YOU? Climbing is a free world and everybody is his or her own judge. Consequently, climbers are sometimes reluctant to ask complete strangers in some climbing association to verify their skills. Don't worry about it. Let the Alpine Association simply know what you've climbed before and/or the courses you've attended. State all your climbs, not just the ones you've summited. Everything counts for experience.

Once in Kathmandu, you will file additional papers and have a half-hour briefing with the minister or his associates.

They will mainly talk to you about climbing sensibly and to care for the environment.

Another briefing - far tougher - you'll face when visiting with a certain Ms Hawley. This lady has collected data on Everest climbing since the beginning of time. She is a very important person to Everest climbing history and to all the climbers. She has met them all and heard it all. Try to fool this Judge Judy of Everest and you are out on your own...

Don't bother to try to find her, she'll find YOU.

She will have you fill out some papers, mostly regarding data for the bank of climbing facts that she has built up over the years. Fear her only if you are not being truthful. Otherwise, she'll become a valuable friend, providing interesting information on the ongoing climbs around the Himalayas. What this Reuters correspondent doesn't know is not worth knowing. Pay her proper respect. She is the only anchor we have in this land of Himalayan Wild West.

If you are an expedition leader, you will have to fill up a minimum of 7 spaces on a climbing permit and collect the permit money from the other climbers on your permit. You will pay the lot to the Ministry upon arriving in Kathmandu.

Remember to collect the money from your fellow climbers in time (at least 2 months prior to the climb) so you don't end up with empty spaces! Nepalese bank accounts can be a real hassle. You could try the trekking agency's own preferred bank - we just bring it all in traveler's checks.

If you are not setting up the entire permit, check with your trekking agency for spaces on others permits, or get together with climbers on this site's "climbers personals".

The expedition will need to put up an environment security of around US 4000. The money will be returned when the expedition has brought back the trash and empty oxygen bottles. Should you lose a bottle on the mountain, bring down an old one.

Empty oxygen bottles are not the main pollution concern on Everest. They have instead become quite valuable and popular Everest "antiques".

It's better to take down the old plastic food wrappings and other stuff that nobody wants. How about collecting some old cans, pieces of ripped tents and food wrapping for a historical climbing Everest Art Display? If you have the time and are fit, that could be cool. Look after your sherpas at all times - their loads are heavy and without the right guidelines, they could get tempted to leave stuff behind. State your point by not littering yourself to begin with.

The expedition must pay a Liaison Officer who will spend some time in your camp (usually in the sherpa quarters). The liaison officers are there to check that everyone in BC is at least somewhat civilized to each other.

You only need to pay for a film permit if you are doing a commercial film, shooting private video is free. The agency will specify the costs for all of the above services. You will also usually pay sherpas additional bonuses after the climb for summiting and/or a job well done. Surf the net for various agencies and get offers from several to compare costs. Don't necessarily go for the cheapest. Be wise.