It has been said by people much more smart ass than me, that the current crisis is an opportunity to rebuild Nepal’s tourism model from scratch. It is true: this country has been sold for too cheap for too long, and it’s time we raised our going rate.
But we cannot do that without upgrading our service and facilities, and that is why I am glad to see that mountaineering outfits this spring season have introduced the Everest Executive Expedition option, which is three times more expensive than going for the summit on Coach Class.
Some snobs have poked fun at commodes and mini bars at Base Camp. To that I can only say: eat your heart out. It is only a question of time before there will be a sauna at Camp II, and wind-powered blow heaters on the South Col.
Have you noticed that every time the Department of Tourism and Marxism brings out a list of expeditions on various Himalayan mountains, it also lists the revenue it earned from fees on each of them?
Kaching! The sound of the cash counter is proof that our foremost concern is to sell our highest mountains to the highest bidders. However, allow me to just play the devil’s defence lawyer here to say that we are still not realising the full money-making potential of our mountains by being too focussed on royalty. After all, we are now a republic.
And this means that to really make a killing, we must THINK BIG. Raising the height of Everest last year was a start, but why did we have to stop at adding only 86cm to the highest mountain in the world? It can very easily be made even higher so that we can charge higher fees.
The MoCAT has shown it has imagination with new rules this year like the ban on taking selfies on the mountain without the express permission of the Liaison Officer, or putting a daily quota on the number of climbers on the summit. (Both available for additional fees.)
So, it will be no big departure for the ministry to require every expedition to carry 10kg of rocks to the summit and deposit it there. Not only will this increase the height of Mt Everest, but also its weight. Expeditions can also carry their garbage to the summit and dump it there for additional stature.
My back of the envelope calculation is that if this rule is followed, we could easily raise the elevation of Everest to 9,000m within the next fiscal year, and thereby also increase the royalty fees by $10 million.
Imagine what a boost that would also be to our national morale, our sovereignty, territorial integrity and gastroenterology, if Qomalungma (which in Tibetan means ‘Goddess Grandmother of the Earth’) and Sagarmatha (Nepali for ‘Pointy One Behind the White One with the Flat Top That Is Third from Right If You Are Looking Counter-clockwise’) was not just a big piece of rock, but an even bigger money spinner.
GONe can then invest the fees on adding facilities on Everest to generate even more revenue. Since just about every peak in Nepal now has a view tower, it would be a big mistake not to have one on Mt Everest. And as long as we are at it, MoCAT can install a funicular up the Khumbu Icefall, a moving walkway to the base of the Lhotse Face, and then a cable car to the South Col. From there, there can be a series of escalators to the Summit View Tower Restaurant & Lounge Pvt Ltd.
This way, everyone regardless of caste, class or creed, will be able to make a first ass-cent of Everest.