Ukrainian Antonina Samoilova unfurled her country’s flag on Mount Everest earlier this month as Nepal opened its mountains to foreign climbers and opened a new airport to boost its vital tourism business, which has ground to a halt during the pandemic.
“Support Ukraine,” read the blue and yellow national flag, which the 33-year-old unfurled atop the 29,030-foot summit of Everest, drawing the attention of international climbers to the world’s highest peak.
“My main ascent message was… that the Ukrainian people are still fighting for their freedom, for their future, and we need help from all sides,” Samoilova added later in Kathmandu.
She was the only Ukrainian to summit Everest this year.
Ukraine has insisted that Nepal ban climbers from entering Russia until the end of the war in Eastern Europe, but Kathmandu says it will issue permits to anyone who follows government rules.
“We have not changed our policy,” added Santa Bir Lama, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, as Nepal allowed climbers from 61 countries to climb 18 peaks to increase Himalayan tourism revenue during the main spring season from April to May.
As of April 25, Nepal has issued a total of 876 climbing permits, including 306 special passes for climbing Mount Everest in the spring, an increase of 153 permits compared to the same period last year.
He received 3.3 million euros in royalties from expedition teams in Nepal, the government’s tourism department added.
Men and women from Austria, the UK, Canada, France, Germany and the US were among those given paid access to the Himalayas, officials said, adding that 14 of them were from Russia.
Everest was closed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 12,000 Nepalese and infected nearly a million of the country’s 29 million people.
Among those who shone this year was 52-year-old Nepalese guide Kami Rita Sherpa when he climbed Mount Everest for the 26th time to break his own world record, set last year, for climbing the world’s most imposing peak.
“The important thing is that foreigners are arriving now,” added trek organizer Harikrishna Sharma in Kathmandu, pointing to the number of western steps in the tiny Himalayan country sandwiched between India and China.
About 150,000 tourists visited Nepal in 2012, but in stark contrast, there were 50,000 arrivals in just the first three weeks of 2022 as Kathmandu lifted travel restrictions, offered visas on arrival and advised visitors not to worry about vaccination mandates .
Earlier this month, Nepal also announced the closure of its second international airport and said regular passenger flights would resume on June 12 from a brand new facility built near Lumbini, the revered birthplace of the Buddha.
The airport aims to provide…