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Following this news piece.

Nepal said on Tuesday it was investigating whether a Chinese woman, this season's sole climber of Mount Everest from the Nepalese side, used a helicopter to reach a high camp

Why would the authorities want to verify if she did or did not use helicopter? If someone potentially wants to undertake such a journey, would it be illegal? Are there some regulations (i.e., air traffic rules) which were broken?

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"They should not care how one spends their private time and private money for whatever activity they wish"? That's ridiculous on so many levels. Thankfully they do care and this prevents mount Everest to be turned in another stupid recreational park for rich people. –  Geeo Jun 2 at 7:15
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Right now it costs about $30000 to climb Mount Everest, a large chunk of which goes towards the Nepalese economy. If people started flying up all the way to Base Camp or even the peak itself, the "climb" would become significantly cheaper. –  JonathanReez Jun 2 at 7:33
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@Geeo "That's ridiculous on so many levels." - That's not. You can get to many other mountains in many other countries this way, and unless it is against air traffic control or other rules, I don't see why would it be ridiculous. –  sashkello Jun 2 at 8:29
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@NikitaSokolsky That could explain it, however, I would guess 1. Getting there by a helicopter is not cheap either. 2. I think most of the people who climb wouldn't choose a helicopter, one wouldn't replace another. 3. It still doesn't explain why would they want to investigate it. It isn't illegal (or is it? I could think it has some special status, but this would be the answer to the question then). –  sashkello Jun 2 at 8:33
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I don't think anyone cares how people spend their private time and money, however Mountain Everest is not anyone's private backyard, and climbing it is certainly not a private activity. –  Yannis Jun 2 at 9:58

2 Answers 2

up vote 38 down vote accepted

Climbing Everest from Nepal requires a special permit, and climbers who successfully summit the mountain receive a certificate of acknowledgment from the Nepalese government. The money gathered from the permits go towards cleaning up the mountain1, which is considered a holy place by some local populations.

If Wang Jing did indeed use a helicopter to bypass parts of the climb, her ascent will not be recognized and she will not receive her certificate. Also, she might be refused a permit in the future.

1 for example: Extreme Everest Expedition 2010

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My answer was accepted, therefore it sticks to the top. If you have limited time, I'd urge you to skip it and read Ben Crowell's answer instead. It's the more interesting answer. –  Yannis Jun 3 at 12:16
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I think your answer is more relevant to the question than Ben's. It shows exactly what are the problems from authorities' standpoint. Ben's answer is useful as well, but a bit winding around the topic, being still a good addition to this main answer. That's why I selected this as "the answer". –  sashkello Jun 3 at 21:35

It is not straightforward to fly a helicopter to these altitudes, land, and take off again. It's risky, and the results depend on the weather, which can change without warning. The helicopter is operating near the limit of the thinnest air in which it can fly, and it's less maneuverable than normal. The Nepalese army used to do helicopter rescues on Everest, but now they're being handled by a private company called Fishtail Air, which lands as high as 6400 m. Landing that high is only possible in good weather. In appropriate conditions, helicopters can fly higher than the peak of Everest, but they can't land and take off that high. There have been three incidents in which Fishtail helicopters crashed while trying to rescue someone, as well as many crashes in the area before Fishtail started operating.

For a tourist to fly in to Everest base camp by choice is stupid on so many levels that it's not even funny. At these altitudes, it's all about acclimatization. Flying in on a helicopter means they lose that chance at acclimatization, which makes them more likely to have serious problems as they continue climbing from there. They're also missing out on a scenic and memorable hike, which in fact is probably the only part of climbing Everest that will not be physically miserable.

It seems like they should not care how one spends their private time and private money for whatever activity they wish.

A good analogy would be if someone wanted to do a helicopter landing on the top of the Washington Monument. I don't think the park service would be very happy about it.

The ideal is for mountaineers to be self-reliant and independent, but also that if the need arises, they do everything they can for other people. In reality, when you're at high altitude in the mountains, you may be highly interdependent with other people with whom you're sharing the mountain. If porter A gashes his forehead, and climber B from another group uses up her sanitary napkins as bandages, she may have to ask around to see if anyone else has any. This idea of helicoptering in creates more risk for the person doing it (crashing, not being properly acclimatized for later climbing), and if those risks turn out badly, it has an impact on other people. Guides, climbers, porters, and doctors are all going to be called on to deal with an emergency situation, and they will put themselves in danger, if necessary, to deal with it.

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"Fishtail" doesn't strike me as a great name for a rescue company... –  David Richerby Jun 2 at 18:20
    
Is acclimatization necessary if oxygen masks are used 24/7? –  JonathanReez Jun 2 at 19:28
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@NikitaSokolsky: Yes. Even with oxygen and acclimatization, most people traveling to 8000 m can barely function, there is a risk of acute illness, and the body rapidly deteriorates. –  Ben Crowell Jun 2 at 23:08
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Fishtail is the literal English translation of the local name of another famous mountain of Nepal –  user13267 Jun 3 at 1:40
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