It’s Finally Easier to Get to Bhutan

Xioajun Deng, Flickr

Bhutan might be most well-known for its Gross National Happiness Index, but it’s also an excellent destination for any adventure-seeking traveler on the lookout for outdoor exploits.

Situated at the eastern end of the Himalayas, Bhutan isn’t the easiest place to get to, but with the launch of the country’s second airline, that could soon change. Up until now, the state-owned Drukair was the only airline available to the country, but tapping into the aviation infrastructure of next door neighbor Thailand, now the Bhutanese and travelers to Bhutan also have access to Bhutan Airlines.

Thanks to the new airline, there will be a daily flight between Bangkok and Paro, Bhutan’s only international airport.

This is good for the country whose new prime minister isn’t focusing on talking about happiness, but “reducing the obstacles to happiness.” Last year the country had 150,000 visitors, up a whole 60% from the previous year. With tourism as Bhutan’s main source of revenue, particularly thanks to the country’s Buddhist temples and monasteries as well as mountainous landscape, a second airline will help more people have easier access to the country.

Nine Foreign Tourists Killed In Pakistan

Nanga Parbat, Pakistan
Ahmed Sajjad Zaidi, Flickr

Gunmen stormed a Himalayan base camp in northern Pakistan on Sunday, killing 11 people, among them nine foreign climbers. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The tourists were of Ukrainian, Russian and Chinese origin, according to Reuters. They were attacked at the base camp of Nanga Parbat, the ninth-highest mountain in the world. The mountain is located in the Gilgit-Baltistan province of Pakistan, an area where the Himalayas, the Hindu-Kush and the Karakoram mountain ranges collide in spectacular fashion. The area has heretofore been one of the more secure regions for tourists in the violence-plagued country.

Officials say that the attackers wore police uniforms and kidnapped two guides to lead them to the base camp, which is inaccessible by road. They then opened fire on the camp, killing the climbers and guides. One Chinese climber is alleged to have survived.

The Taliban claim the attack was in response to continued support of drone strikes by the international community.

Dozens of other climbers were evacuated from the mountain by helicopter following the assault. The mountain is a popular challenge for experienced mountaineers from around the world. Nanga Parbat is known as the “Killer Mountain” for its notoriously lethal difficulty level.

Video: Everest In Time-Lapse

We’ve seen some truly amazing time-lapse videos in recent months but it is difficult to top this one. It was shot on Mt. Everest this spring and delivers a true sense of the scale of that mountain. Many of the images were captured at various campsites along the route up to the summit and feature some stunning shots of the night sky above the tallest mountain in the world. It is a short, but beautiful film that will leave you in awe of our planet.

Everest -A time lapse short film” from Elia Saikaly on Vimeo.

Sherpas May Install Ladder On Everest To Lessen Crowds

Sherpas may install a ladder on Everest
EPA

A controversial plan to install a ladder on Mt. Everest has been met with a less than enthusiastic response from the mountaineering community. The mountain guides behind the proposal say that the ladder will help to alleviate traffic jams near the summit, while purists claim that it will detract from the overall challenge of the climb.

The plan was first made public this past weekend when Dawa Steven Sherpa, a prominent mountain guide and member of the Expedition Operators Association in Nepal, revealed that the organization was considering installing a ladder at the Hillary Step, a crucial point in the climb on Everest’s South Side. Named after Sir Edmund Hillary, who was the first to scale it, the Hillary Step is located at 28,750 feet. The 40-foot rock wall has been the cause of bottlenecks in recent years as climbers attempt to negotiate the tricky route while wearing crampons and other heavy climbing gear. Since only one person can be on the ropes at any given time, others end up standing around watching and waiting for their turn. This can be especially dangerous due to the thin air, cold temperatures and weather conditions that have been known to change abruptly.

According to Dawa, the ladder would only be used by climbers who are descending, which would have little to no impact on the level of challenge related to the climb. It would simply direct the traffic heading down in a slightly different direction, thus eliminating congestion and diminishing traffic jams.But opponents of the plan say that those coming to the mountain should already know how to safely climb a relatively easy technical section such as the Hillary Step. They argue that the ladder will enable even more people to attempt Everest, bring more inexperienced and untested climbers to the mountain. Critics say that it could possibly even lead to further crowding in the future.

It should be noted that ladders are already used on certain sections of Everest. For instance, climbers on the South Side use them to traverse the Khumbu Icefall, a treacherous section that would be nearly impossible to pass through without the aid of a ladder. On the North Side of the mountain, which falls inside China controlled Tibet, there is a permanent ladder installed at a place called the Second Step. That rock face is far more difficult than the Hillary Step however and without the ladder there, almost no one would successfully reach the top along that route.

Personally, I feel that if Nepal truly wants to make the mountain safer they should limit the number of permits that are issued each year. That won’t happen however, as the permits bring in a lot of money to a country that is otherwise extremely poor. Given the alternatives, I’d say adding the ladder is a wise move.