A British man climbing Mount Everest to raise money for UK charity Comic Relief may have fallen afoul of the law by making a video call from the top of the mountain.
Daniel Hughes summited on Sunday along with scores of other people. But when he got to the top of Everest he did something quite different from the others: He put on a clown nose – the trademark of the charity’s fundraising efforts – and made a video call to the BBC with his HTC smartphone.
A government spokesperson has declared the call illegal because Hughes did not take advance permission from the communications ministry to broadcast from Mount Everest.
Restrictions on media activity on the mountain have been in place for decades, but they were written with video and film cameras and satellite communications in mind. The regulations say nothing about mobile phones, and there has been cellphone coverage on the mountain since October 2010.
Hughes is certainly not the first trekker or mountaineer to have phoned home with a smartphone. And if it is illegal to do so, then Ncell, the Nepalese mobile phone company that installed the cell tower at Everest base camp, broke the law on the first day of operation. Ncell chief Pasi Koistinen told reporters then, “Today we made the [world’s] highest video call from Mount Everest base camp.”
Koistinan said that doing the same from the top of the mountain was feasible but that it hadn’t been tested.
Well it has now, and the evidence is there for all to see.
Despite the government’s threats, the chance of Hughes being prosecuted is small. Doing so would force the ministry to ban or regulate the use of smartphones on the mountain, something that they agree adds to trekkers’ and climbers’ safety.
Cooler heads will prevail, and probably sooner rather than later. After the unwelcome media coverage earlier this climbing season of a fight between Sherpas and climbers on the mountain, the government will want this story to go away quickly, lest it be seen as persecuting a mountaineer who was raising money for charity and doing something not specifically prohibited.