Missing trekker report 2019:

The lowest number of missing trekkers reported in years but there are urgent problems to be addressed

2019 has had the lowest number of official missing trekkers reported here since 2015. There are no prior records of annual counts as none existed before missingtrekker.com.

In the conclusion below, we’ll look at a few aspects of why there have been so few missing trekkers in 2019. The prime reason is awareness. Throughout 2019 we saw an uptake in people asking what to do about trekking companies, trekking alone and indeed safety issues.

Sadly the number of trekker deaths have doubled in Nepal. Last year we took the policy not to record these numbers as they can be misleading in many respects. However, we’ve summarized the causes in the conclusion that will continue to monitor the situation in the coming year. 

The number of worried family members or friends who’ve contacted us here in 2019 was on par with 2018. However, in 2019 we received several hoax reports which have been disturbing. Overall 2019 has been a positive year with the huge drop in missing trekkers reported.

2019s List of Missing trekkers in Nepal

Thomas Wierks (Dutch) & Si Sung (Korean): went missing in Thuman village, Langtang in September 2019. Following on from 2018 there was very little official information released about them. TAAN posted their names, passport numbers and no more.

Generic Missing Person icon 2

Thomas’ body was found at the foot of a cliff while Si’s body was found nearby in a populated area in October. It was reported in Dutch media that the organization that they worked for did not want their status to be made public when they were declared missing and a search was underway. A bizarre case in which people are trying to find them but nobody releases much information about them. 

There was one false missing trekker report filed by TAAN. The British tourist had not gone trekking and was found in Pokhara.

We received seven missing trekker reports from friends and family members whom we offered support to. These seven trekkers were all located within days of the report. Most had simply not been able to make contact due to no reception or electricity.

We received an additional number of non-trekking related reports of Nepali citizens who were forwarded to the appropriate authorities.

There was a confirmed report of Nepal trekkers going missing due to an avalanche/cave collapse in March 2019. As their whereabouts were known they were not listed as “missing”.

Conclusion on missing trekkers in Nepal during 2019

In 2019 there were 2 missing trekkers who were found deceased. In 2018 there were 3 confirmed missing trekkers but a total of 7 unconfirmed missing trekkers. Compared to 2017 which had 5 missing trekkers and in 2016 which also had 5 missing trekkers. Do see the previous reports for more details.

Why the drop in missing trekkers?

We believe the drop is due to an increase in awareness about certain treks and about trekking in Nepal. Examples included a four-year highlight on the danger in trekking in the Langtang area alone and in trekking the shortcut on the Mardi Himal trek. A look back at previous years and you’ll see a great number of trekkers went missing on these two treks.

Neither the danger in Langtang nor Mardi Himal treks were supported by any for-profit trekking companies nor TAAN. The Langtang trek was highlighted here. While the Mardi Himal trek was highlighted here. Several independent (non-sponsored) bloggers picked up on this in their posts as well. The Lantang danger warning has been lifted here in 2020 due to improved conditions and an awareness of danger around Lama Hotel. The Mardi Himal short cut route danger remains and it’s highly advised to take the regular route down.

Further, we received a large number of inquiries from people asking about safety issues on treks. Good trekking companies and where to find them. We also received more complaints than ever before about a lack of trail signs throughout Nepal.

We are aware of TAANs 2019 signs at airports and their offices urging people to go with a guided group. While this is all well and good the lack of trail signs is impacting trekker safety on the trails. The essence of safety with a guide vs without is also disputed by the increase in reported trekker deaths with guides.

Trekker Deaths in 2019

There have been double the number of trekker deaths in 2019 compared to 2018. We are not making any official count nor status on individual trekker deaths in 2019. The reason for this is the lack of credible national reporting on trekker deaths in Nepal. Quite often a report comes in that a trekker simply died at the location. There’s no follow up. That trekker may have died from natural causes, an avalanche, or altitude sickness. Without that essential information, it’s impossible to make accurate reports.

Of the 14 deaths. 4 were attributed to altitude sickness. 1 with cardiac issues. 1 with hypothermia. 3 due to an avalanche. The remaining 5 are of unknown causes. Approximately 50% of those who died were with guides.

The proposed ban on solo trekking over 3000m in Nepal

This ban was being pushed by TAAN back in 2018. It did not come to fruition in 2019 nor is it likely to in 2020 due to the Visit Nepal 2020 year of tourism campaign.

As it stands with a drop in missing trekkers in 2019 yet an increase in trekker deaths in 2019 many of whom were with guides, such a ban on trekking over 3000m without a guide becomes nonsensical.

Nepal’s Helicopter Rescue Scam

The well documented helicopter rescue scam in Nepal continues. There have been no updates released on the investigation. Helicopters have become a common sight in Nepal. There has been a dramatic increase in the cost of travel insurance to Nepal.

Support for missing trekkers

Improvements in MissingTrekker.com in 2018-2019 enable a better foundation to provide families and friends of missing trekkers from previous years a chance for more information, console, heal and positively remember their missing loved ones together. This has been an incredibly positive aspect of MissingTrekker that we are proud of.

In 2019 MissingTrekker.com began a warning notice about current dangerous trekking conditions in Nepal. This was implemented during the February/March heavy snowfall and closure of Annapurna Base Camp. And will be activated whenever there is a clear and present danger for trekkers in Nepal.

We were asked to consider changing the generic missing trekker photo to one that shows the region of a missing trekker. This is impractical. It would be far better to be supplied with a photograph of a missing trekker to help identify them in the first place. Secondly, there are maps on each missing trekker page showing their approximate location which is far more relevant than a generic mountain photograph with a question mark. For all missing trekkers, we supply as much identification as possible. The generic silhouette photograph is simply a placeholder.

In 2019 there was zero financial support or donations given to MissingTrekker.com. It has been entirely self-funded and run by volunteers. This is an aspect of MissingTrekker.com that will need to be addressed in 2020.

2019 Missing Trekker Report Conclusion

The drop in missing trekkers in Nepal is a positive occurrence which is highlighted by the increase in the number of tourists in Nepal during 2019. We would like to reach zero missing trekkers in 2020. Hopefully, the trend of trekkers garnering independent information about trekking in Nepal rather than relying on trekking companies or outdated information will continue.

The number of trekker deaths increasing is more worrying. On the ground, it’s being reported that some guides and trekking companies are pushing trekkers to go further and faster to finish a trek sooner. It’s also been reported that many trekkers seeking cheaper (faster) treks are also asking for this. Coupled with helicopter rescues it’s a worrying trend. MissingTrekker.com will be updating its safety tips section to highlight the dangers of rushing a trek. We will also increase our warnings about choosing a safe trekking company and not one that promises you can make the trek.

In 2018 we highlighted the lack of accurate official reporting and media coverage of missing trekkers. This has improved throughout 2019 though with the drop in missing trekkers is difficult to substantiate it as a permanent improvement.

In 2018 we highlighted the lack of trail and trekking signs in Nepal. There has been a substantial decrease in the number of well maintained or new signs in Nepal throughout 2019. Once again this is a worrying trend that is decreasing trekking enjoyment, accessibility, and safety throughout the country.

There has been an increase in the number of avalanches in the Annapurna region in Nepal. Particularly in the ABC region where weather conditions have been less than ideal in the offseason. Increased signs and precautions are needed. With improved telecommunications, equipment, internet facilities and finances, the region could easily have an early warning weather alert system. Coupled with teahouse alerts letting trekkers know that they should turn back due to an incoming weather system.

MissingTrekker.com continues to post information on trekkers that have gone missing in Nepal. If you have any information on a missing trekker please follow these guidelines.