Michael Liu Blomberg from Sweden, who embarked on a solo voyage on the Mardi Himal trek, has been missing since the morning of December 30, 2023. At around 4 am, he started his descent towards the base camp from Mardi High Camp, and since then, all attempts to establish contact with him have been unsuccessful.

Blomberg is not the first individual to go missing on the Mardi Himal trek. According to the Mardi Tourism Management Committee, five trekkers have previously gone missing and remain unlocated. However, seven trekkers who experienced mishaps during the trek have been successfully rescued.

The Mardi Himal trek is often regarded as one of the more accessible treks in the country. Situated in the Annapurna region, the trek can be completed in less than a week if done swiftly. Many, like Blomberg, try to rush through the trek to get as close to the mountain as possible. However, this approach has led to unfortunate situations where some trekkers, in their haste, end up getting lost forever.

Another complicating factor is the lack of information available on trekkers who embark on this trek. Despite the Mardi Himal trek falling under the jurisdiction of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), the project lacks data on the number of trekkers who have gone missing. This information gap adds to the challenges of tracking and ensuring the safety of individuals exploring this area.

“It’s not great to say this, but we do not have data on people who have gone missing there,” says Rabin Kadariya, head of ACAP.

Lack of foresight

The disappearance of 20-year-old solo trekker Blomberg has highlighted the inadequacies of the ACAP mechanism. Stakeholders say there seems to be a lack of seriousness when it comes to the search and rescue efforts for missing trekkers. Additionally, a conflict has arisen between Mardi tourism entrepreneurs and the municipality regarding tourist fees. This tension escalated to the point where tourism entrepreneurs vandalized information centers, protesting against the municipality’s collection of entrance fees from tourists.evrst

Currently, ACAP, tourism entrepreneurs, and the rural municipality are independently searching for Blomberg. Many believe that had this been done in coordination, the likelihood of locating the young Swedish trekker would have been higher.

Raj Kumar Tamang, President of the Mardi Tourism Management Committee, states that they have been conducting day and night searches for Blomberg in the jungle.

“Despite our various efforts to locate Blomberg, we have not been successful,” says Tamang. “Entrepreneurs cannot handle everything on their own; the rural municipality has shown indifference. They haven’t assigned a single person to participate in the search operation.”

However, Annapurna Rural Municipality has said that the operation is already underway, led by Dan Bahadur Poudel. According to the rural municipality spokesperson, Ganesh Acharya, five individuals have been tasked with searching for Blomberg.

“The local level has initiated its efforts. Poudel, given his significant experience in living in the mountains and navigating jungles, has been appointed as the leader of the search team,” says Acharya. “Instead of engaging in a blame game, our focus should be on the search operation.”

ACAP head Kadariya says the project has also been trying to get as much information as it can from various checkpoints along the way.IMG 20231006 WA0002

We have also been taking information from all the checkpoints, says Kadariya.

ACAP says Blomberg had informed the checkpoint set up at Low Camp he would be back by December 30. However, after he did not return, the ward 8 chair of the rural municipality, Ram Gurung, informed ACAP about his disappearance.

“We quickly mobilized a team to look for him,” said Kadariya

Risks of solo trekking

According to ACAP, Blomberg was seen traveling to Poon Hill after completing the Annapurna Circuit by crossing the Thorong La. His travel record indicates that he was initially part of a group, but he became separated as he headed towards Manaslu. No entry of his presence has been recorded at any of the checkpoints after reaching Manaslu.

ACAP and tourism entrepreneurs agree that Blomberg was a solo trekker. Tamang argues that allowing someone to trek without a travel guide is inappropriate.

On March 3, 2023, the Nepal Tourism Board decided to Make Guides Mandatory for all trekking in Nepal. All the National Park, Conservation Area thereby banning solo trekking, in Nepal from April 1, 2023. However, that has not stopped people from solo trekking in fa0511c1 0966 4af4 a9e8 a5dd9fd56769Nepal as tourism entrepreneurs along the Mardi Himal trek say they see a lot of solo trekkers in the region.

“Although solo trekking is banned, we don’t have proper implementation of the rule. As that happens, incidents like these take place” says Kadariya. So please do not travel solo hire a local guide or supporter who will be taking care of you throughout the trip.

Island Peak Climbing

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