Nepal Red Tape Threatens India's Everest Heroine

By Sudeshna Sarkar 

Kathmandu, May 29 (IANS) A hero's welcome and red carpet await Anshu Jamsenpa, the first Indian and the second woman to conquer Mt Everest, the word's highest peak, twice in less than a fortnight, when she returns home to Arunachal Pradesh this week.

But in Nepal, bureaucratic red tape threatens to trip up the 32-year-old with Nepal's tourism and civil aviation ministry saying she acted "illegally" by summiting the 8,848m peak a second time.

"There is a controversy about Jamsenpa's Everest ascents," said Laxman Bhattarai, spokesman at Nepal's tourism and civil aviation ministry.

"She applied for a permit to us to climb Mt Everest once and paid the required royalty of $25,000. However, she then summited the peak a second time without taking a permit first or paying the licence fee again."

Ordinarily, Bhattarai told IANS, this would be tantamount to avoiding paying royalty to the government and a punishable offence.

"It would amount to an illegal climb that would not be recognised by Nepal," Bhattarai said.

With Nepal's tourism secretary, Ganesh Joshi, out of Kathmandu, Bhattarai said the senior official's return was being awaited to decide if any official action would be taken against Jamsenpa.

However, the mother of two from Bomdila was optimistic that the red tape problem would be resolved amicably.

"I first summited Mt Everest on May 12," Jamsenpa said. "Then I decided on the spur of the moment to try once more and was told that there would be a weather window on May 21, allowing climbers to attempt the summit. There was little time to complete all the formalities before that and so, I thought I would climb first and then sort out things."

Jamsenpa also says she held talks with Nepali officials who were at the Everest base camp and received the impression that given the weather constraints, she could climb first and then come back and deposit the second permit fee.

Jamsenpa's husband, Tsering Wange, said he had flown down from Bomdila to sort out the red tape and had already deposited the fresh royalty fee with the mountaineering agency handing her documents.

Jamsenpa's case has been strongly taken up by her state government.

Wange said the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, Gen (Retd) J.J. Singh and Chief Minister Jarbom Gamlin had contacted the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, asking them to help iron out the wrinkles and if possible, ask Nepal to waive the second licence fee.

The red tape was aggravated by Nepal's political turmoil. Kathmandu remained paralysed by two general strikes this week and efforts to speed up the processing of Jamsenpa's documents were affected by that.

Jamsenpa's bid to become the first woman in the world to conquer Mt Everest twice in the same season was pipped by a 27-year-old from eastern Nepal, Churim Sherpa, who summited first with her on May 12 and then, once more May 20.

Churim, being a member of the Sherpa community, did not have to grapple with the bureaucratic red tape since Sherpas, who work as high altitude guides and porters, do not have to pay climbing royalties.


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