Mountaineers planning expeditions to the Indian Himalaya next year will be encouraged by the news of a potential drop in peak fees, the result of a drive by the Ministry of Tourism to promote adventure tourism in the country's mountain ranges.
News of these welcome proposals has been in circulation for a while and an official statement is expected soon.
Earlier this year, during a speech given on State Day in Himachal Pradesh, the Indian tourism minister mentioned that the Government had decided to reduce peak fees (which foreign expeditions pay through the Indian Mountaineering Foundation) by 50% for most open peaks.
Currently no notification has appeared in the Gazette of India, the authorized legal document of the Government of India, which prints official announcements from the Government.
However, it is thought this could appear as early as the end of this month.
Fees charged by the IMF for standard peaks in open areas have typically been from $500 - $1,000 (depending on altitude) for a two-person team, with additional costs per extra member.
But the best news comes from the state of Uttarakhand (aka Uttaranchal), which includes the mountain regions of Garhwal and Kumaon, with well-known peaks such as Kamet, Changabang, Shivling and the Bhagirathis.
Since 2004 the government of this newly formed state has imposed additional fees to those of the IMF: an extra peak fee, a camping and trail management fee, an environmental levy, and a service charge.
For peaks below 6,500m these totalled Rs60,000, from 6,501-7,000m the charge was Rs65,000, and above 7001m, Rs80,000. Using current exchange rates these amount to approximately £600, £650 and £800 respectively.
These substantial extra charges made a impact on climbing in Uttarakhand, significantly reducing the number of expeditions, both Indian and foreign.
In a promise given during a meeting with state government authorities, Uttarakhand will drop all extra peak fees. The status of its other additional charges is not yet clear.
These changes are most likely to be applicable to 2014 and beyond, current information implying a period of two years.
The Government may consider other changes to simplify the bureaucracy surrounding climbing in India.
This report will be updated as more information, and confirmation, becomes available, but for now this is heartening news for the mountaineering community.
Thanks to Rajesh Gadgil, Honorary Editor of the Himalayan Journal, for information.