More than 100 Sherpas are rallying behind two mountain climbers who face being banned from Mount Everest for the next decade due to an obscure mountaineering rule they apparently broke. Per Outside, it started with a May 5 Facebook post by Willie Benegas, 49, of Argentina, in which he announced that he, along with 20-year-old American Matt Moniz, had fulfilled a longtime goal. "Well after 10 years dreaming about it, it happen!" he wrote, relaying that the pair had skied about 2,600 feet down the Lhotse Face, part of the Everest massif. They did so while they were getting acclimated to the environment in preparation for a climb up both Lhotse and Everest—a mission they now may not get to complete. It appears that while both men had the appropriate climbing permits, they didn't get the proper skiing permits, part of an overall permit process Outside calls "baroque and convoluted."
Legalese surrounding the specifics of skiing during Nepal mountaineering expeditions is confusing, and Benegas, who's summited Everest 11 times, says he'd never heard of the ski permit before. The Sherpa community is standing behind the men, who've brought lots of money into Nepal via tourism and fundraising after the 2015 earthquake there. Benegas and Moniz are also there for another reason: Per Science, they're trying to replicate the twin astronaut study done by Mark and Scott Kelly, but on Earth instead, each leaving their twin at sea level while they remain at high altitudes for a month; they hope to see if there are any changes in gene expression. Both men say they'll pay for the permit retroactively in an attempt to square things. A Nepal Department of Tourism rep tells the Himalayan Times a decision on the men's climbing permits will be reached after a thorough investigation.