Tabei worried about growing footfalls on EverestJunko Tabei, the first woman to scale Mt Everest, has expressed deep concerns about growing footfalls on the world’s highest peak
Junko Tabei, the first woman to scale Mt Everest, has expressed deep concerns about growing footfalls on the world’s highest peak. Tabei, who trekked in the Everest region recently, said the rise in the number of climbers has also worsened pollution on the mountain.
“The more the number of climbers, the more human waste and garbage that are left on the mountain. This causes problems,” she said, suggesting that Everest expeditions should be limited. The Japanese climber is currently in Nepal to support environment conservation in the Himalayan region.
Forty years ago, on May 16, 1975, Tabei became the first woman to summit Mt Everest. She was part of the 15-member Japanese Women’s Everest Expedition. A total of 278 women have successfully followed her footsteps to the summit since her ascent. Tabei, a role model for many women around the world, was 35 years old when she conquered Everest.
“Throughout the 1970s, Nepal government used to issue climbing permits to one party per route per season,” she recalled. “It would take at least a year to obtain climbing permit and was very expensive.”
Tabei, who has visited Nepal more than 20 times, said more than 500 climbers attempting Mt Everest in a season is a big number.
According to the Tourism Ministry, there were a record 578 successful climbers in 2013. Among them, 242 were foreigners. Statistics show that 4,428 people have climbed the tallest peak as of 2014.
The government eased the climbing rules in the 1990s. As a result, Everest has since seen hoards of aspirants lured by the prestige of conquering the world’s highest mountain.
Garbage on the lap of Everest was always the issue. “Even after Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first people to conquer the Everest in 1953, the garbage issue was there,” she said.
Alarmed by the severe environmental damage being done to the mountain due to the rush, New Zealander Hillary had even called for a five-year moratorium on Everest expeditions in 1989, she said.
However, the proposal was rejected. Asked how the Japanese society and her family permitted her to climb Everest at a time when women had limited freedom, she said her husband backed her endeavour. “He was a lover of nature and mountains.” She had left their three-year-old daughter with her husband to go on the expedition.
‘Safe for climbing’
As a number of countries still include Everest region in their travel restrictions after the April 25 earthquake, Junko Tabei, who visited the area recently, said the mountains have no such problems. “Except one place, everything from tea houses and hotels to trekking routes is intact,” she said. “People can travel to the Everest Base Camp and take the trekking routes without hesitation.” An assessment of the trekking routes in the Everest region, conducted by the Tourism Ministry recently, showed minimal damage to a majority of lodges and trails in the region. According to the report, trekking trails are likely to go into full operation after monsoon. The ministry said it would be conducting another assessment after the rainy season is over to fully assure the safety of visitors.