SIKKIM MOUNTAINEERING: Fees for Sikkim mountain climb go up, treks down – well done Sikkim, aiming for the highest end and in line with the rest of the world ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Gangtok, Nov. 1: The Sikkim government has hiked rates for expeditions to five peaks open for mountaineering and has reduced fees for high and low altitude trekking.
The government has also made the tourism department the nodal authority to grant permissions for the climbs and the treks.
Five peaks in Sikkim were declared open for climbs by the state government in 2006 and only local tour operators registered with the tourism department were allowed to conduct the expeditions.
Of the five mountains, three are in West Sikkim — Frey’s Peak (5,830 metre), Mt Tinchenkhang (6,010 metre) and Mt Joponu (5,932 metre). The other two are Lama Wangden (5,868 metre) and Brumkhangse (5,935 metre) in North Sikkim.
Previous fees to climb the five peaks for foreigners were $350 for a four-member team and $500 for a group of eight persons. Each additional member was charged $100. According to a notification issued by the government, the rates have now been hiked to $500 for a four-member team and to $700 for an eight-member group. However, the rate of $100 for every additional member will remain unchanged.
The government has also increased the fees for expedition by Indians living outside Sikkim. The increased amount will be Rs 15,000 for an eight-member team. There will be no change in the rate for additional climber and it will remain Rs 1,500. For an eight-member Sikkim team, the fees have been hiked to Rs 5,000 from Rs 3,000.
Tour agencies conducting the climbs would be given 20 per cent of the fees.
However, there is good news for nature lovers. Trekking along authorised trails above 12,000ft will now cost only $200 for a 10-member foreign group, compared to the earlier charge of $300. For a 10-member Indian team, the reduced fee is Rs 3,000. The rates for low altitude treks will be 50 per cent of the amount charged for the trails along the higher areas.
Earlier, an adventurist had to approach the departments of forest, tourism and home for clearances for the expeditions to the five peaks and the trekking. But from now on, the tourism department will be the nodal agency to permit and regulate all adventure sports, including mountaineering and trekking.
Tourism secretary S.B.S. Bhaduaria hoped that a lot of people would be attracted to the adventure sports in the state with the introduction of the single window system. “This is a landmark decision of the government to encourage people to take up adventure sports. For any kind of clearance for adventure sports, people can approach the tourism department, which will act as the single window system,” he said.
The travel industry of Sikkim has welcomed the decision to appoint the tourism department as the nodal authority for adventure tourism.
“It is a welcome initiative from the government. It will be easy to approach the single window clearance system of the tourism department. The adventure tourism activities in Sikkim will be now more streamlined under the department,” said Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim president Lukendra Rasaily.
The government has also made it mandatory for the tour agents organising the mountaineering and the trekking to submit a bank guarantee of Rs 1 lakh for search and rescue operations in the event of any mishap during the expeditions. This is in addition to the existing condition that the agents should provide insurance coverage to expedition members, camp crew and pack animals.
Tour operators have also been made responsible for search and rescue operations under the overall control and directions of the tourism department.