Nepal is considering banning the disabled and imposing age restrictions on people who want to climb Mount Everest. A series of deaths on the world's tallest peak has prompted safety concerns.
The Himalayan country's ministry of tourism has said the proposed restrictions may include banning people with disabilities and limit permits to those between 18 and 75 years old. The ministry may also require climbers to have previously summited a peak over 6,500 meters (19,685 feet).
Climbing permits for Mount Everest earn the poor Himalayan country millions of dollars a year, but a series of disasters and deaths over the past two years have forced hundreds of climbers to pull out from the climb.
In April, 18 people were killed at base camp after a devastating earthquake caused an avalanche. The previous year, 16 Nepalese guides were killed in another avalanche, prompting a debate over safety.
Nobody has ascended the 8,850-meter mountain this year.
The proposals under consideration have drawn criticism that the government is discriminating against the disabled and old. For many disabled, the climb represents both a personal challenge to be overcome as well as an inspiration for others.
Erik Weihenmayer, a blind American climber, has climbed the highest peaks on all seven continents. He climbed Everest in 2001. Japanese climber Yuichiro Miura, 82, climbed Everest when he was 80.
Nobukazu Kuriki, the only climber to try to summit Everest this year, lost nine fingers to frostbite in 2012 on Everest. On Sunday, he abandoned an effort to reach the top as he ran out of time, but will try again to summit the mountain on Thursday.
The tourism ministry has argued they are not discriminating, but must implement safety guidelines and rules.
"We don't think we should issue permits to people who cannot see or walk or who don't have arms," the tourism ministry head Govinda Karki told AFP. "Climbing Everest is not a joke... it is not a matter of discrimination, how can you climb without legs? Someone will have to carry you up," he said.
cw/kms (AP, AFP)