One after another, disaster struck some or other part of the lofty range during 2010-14.
- A seismic scare in Sikkim in 2011
- A curse of cloudburst in Uttarakhand in 2013
- A foul play by floods in Jammu and Kashmir in 2014
- An anxiety-triggering avalanche in Jammu and Kashmir in 2010 and 2012…
These disasters reduced the accessibility. Maybe some of these disasters might also have created fear in some climbers. For example, number of Indian expeditions experienced a downward trend in 2013 and 2014. But the number of foreign expeditions shot up in 2014 after significant fall in the previous two years.
Read on for details.
Total expeditions during 2010-14
In the half decade spreading between 2010 and 2014, the Indian Himalayas recorded 491 mountaineering expeditions. Local expedition traffic contributed 61.71% (303) to the total traffic. The foreign traffic accounted for the remaining (38.28%).
Change in demand side of mountaineering market
Annual number of mountaineering expeditions provides an insight into the demand side of the market.
The number of total expeditions maintained a flat curve during 2010 and 2011.
Local expedition traffic to the Indian Himalayas showed a healthy upward trend (13.79%) in 2012 as compared to the last year. However, foreign climbing traffic fell by 7.50% in 2012 vis-à-vis 2011. This downward trend in foreign traffic expanded further in 2013 when a decrease of 18.92% was recorded in the total number of foreign expeditions.
The local traffic reversed with a fall of 3.03% in 2013 over the previous year.
In 2014, the local traffic continued to slide down and witnessed a double digit decrease (10.94%) in the number of expeditions, whereas the foreign traffic recovered and recorded an increase of 36.67%.
Average annual expedition rate was 98.2 expeditions in the said five-year period.
Natural and manmade disasters: one of probable reasons for changes in the demand side
Here is a summary of main disasters that might have scared some climbers:
A powerful avalanche swept away Indian army camps in Kashmir and killed soldiers in January-February.
A landslide killed school children in Bageshwar, Uttarakhand in August.
An earthquake (6.9M) shook Sikkim and its neighborhood in September. The monsoon rains triggered landslides interrupting the relief and rescue. This trio of evil forces affected connectivity between West Bengal and Sikkim.
Powerful avalanches killed several people in Jammu and Kashmir.
A cold snap in North India killed several people in January.
An avalanche blocked roads in Himachal Pradesh in February.
Landslides affected life in Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand in March.
An earthquake (5.8M) jolted the Kashmir Valley in April.
Probably the heaviest monsoon rains in the last eight decades flattened several settlements in Uttarakhand in June 2013. This killed scores of locals and pilgrims. Scores of people are still missing. A cloudburst and the consequent mudslides and flood devastated Kedarnath area, one of the most popular pilgrimage sites.
Heavy downpour also triggered landslides and floods in Himachal Pradesh.
Landslide disturbed life in Nainital in July.
An earthquake (5.4M) vibrated Himachal Pradesh.
Landslides created troubles in Sikkim.
The Beas Tragedy in Himachal Pradesh took life of more than 20 students in June. The students posing in the river for their cameras were washed away when water was released from the hydropower project into the Beas River at Thalaut in Mandi.
Monsoon rains increased the water levels in the Jhelum, Neelum, and Poonch rivers of Jammu and Kashmir in September 2014. The consequent floods killed about 300 people.
The Ministry of Tourism launched a new campaign 777 Days of the Incredible Indian Himalayas in September 2013 to promote brand Himalayas.
Despite 50% discount on peak fee introduced under the campaign, the number of Indian expeditions fell in 2014. But the number of foreign expeditions soared in 2014.
How many eligible persons can actually enroll for mountaineering training?
India has four recognized mountaineering institutes. The maximum annual capacity of thirty-two (32) regular basic and advance mountaineering courses conducted by these institutes is just 1,660 persons per year. The first prerequisite to join the course is the right age: 18-45 years.
The total Indian population of 18-45 age group aggregates 531,702,130 (Census 2011).
These institutes with current enrollment capacity cannot therefore train even one percent of total eligible population. These institutes can train only 0.0003% of the current eligible population if we presume that this group meets all other admission criteria.
The ratio of total regular mountaineering courses to the number of total Indian expeditions during 2010-14 was 1:1.9. Each course may be equated to about two expeditions. (About 2 expeditions per course)
The ratio of basic mountaineering courses (BMCs) to advance mountaineering courses (AMCs) was 2.2:1. Less than fifty percent students of BMCs can thus opt for AMCs. However, the institutes also conduct courses on special requests.
Probable factors ascribed to smaller demand side of the Indian mountaineering market include
- Arduous nature of the hard adventure activity requiring special skills
- Less training opportunities
- Fear of manmade and natural disasters
Hard (adventure) is for hardy!