As a traveler who has come to the Nepal Himalaya over 30 times, I have studied closely the trends in Himalayan tourism, particularly as it relates to Japanese visitors. Recently, Japanese climbers have started opting for mountains in China rather than those in Nepal. The major reason for this change in climbing destination is the paperwork required by the Nepali authorities. A quick way to revive mountaineering tourism is to simplify the procedures for getting climbing permission, provide quick transportation to base camp, and control climbing cost (for example, the arbitrary setting of porters´ fees). These steps will help bring some Japanese climbers back to the Nepali mountains. But this is not enough, and the market can be expanded even further.
Most Japanese trekkers would like to be able to stand on the summits of Nepali mountains. To satisfy this urge, the Nepali authorities and trek agencies could cooperate to devise proper climbing plans which would allow the tourist to stand on small peaks in about three weeks time. Such a climbing trip, if properly organised, would be even safer than trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp.
A mountain itinerary as organised by the Soviet tourism authorities in the Pamirs might be one to foliow in Nepal. According to this model, a semi permanent base camp would be established at an altitude of about 3,500 metres. Climbers would be helicoptered in from Kathmandu after a day of sight seeing in the Valley. The climbers would be provided with systematic acclimatisation for two days at base camp and given a medical check up after a day´s rest. Those who are ready would then be allowed to go up the mountain on fixed ropes with good Sherpa guides. The camps on the mountain would already be set up.
I think it is possible to put such a plan into effect in the Khumbu region, leading from the Sherpa village of Pheriche to Island Peak. In Manang, Centra! Nepal, such a route could be established on peaks like Chulu or Pisang. Nepal would open up a major tourist market by making these minor Himalayan peaks more accessible. This way, many amateur Japanese climbers can go up to the tops of Himalayan mountains and their dreams would be fulfilled. Unlike the trekking tourist who is likely to go up to the Everest Base Camp only once, the climbing tourist is likely to come back again and again to seek adventure on other mountains.
Michio Yuasa is a lave professor. He is also Director of Alpine Tour Service, Tokyo. Viewpoint columns do not necessarily reflect the views of Himal.