Improve the safety of high-altitude mountaineering with this new permitting mechanism—never fear overcrowding on Everest again!
Certain mountains require that climbers obtain a permit before embarking.
Sometimes these can be expensive, but rarely is any mountaineering competency required. Everest permits, which are issued by the government of Nepal, cost approximately $10,000 (Wikipedia link).
If too many people are crowded onto a narrow high-altitude route, disaster can result from increased amount of time that climbers spend in the inhospitable low-temperature and low-oxygen environment.
Instead of just giving out Everest permits to anyone who can pay the fee, why not make a climber show their dedication by first requiring that they summit a less deadly mountain?
Specifically, the climber must obtain a physical “summit eligibility token” from the summit of an easier peak, as shown in Figure 1.
This token—plus the standard entry fee—would then be required for climbing a more difficult mountain.
In order to make things slightly more interesting, the token is not just a simple card or coin, but is an extremely heavy metal ingot (Figure 2).
The climber would have to show their mountaineering prowess by somehow lugging this heavy ingot all the way back down the mountain.
The Everest gatekeepers should adopt this idea, and should immediately start designing some interesting eligibility ingots (and figuring out which mountains they should go on).
PROS: Sets a lower bound on the amount of unqualified-ness of a prospective mountain climber, which may reduce the number of mountaineering fatalities.
CONS: May also reduce overall revenue obtained from permit issuance.