If the recent negative press concerning bitcoin has been getting you down, here is a bit of news that should put you on top of the world – quite literally.
Trek and expedition organiser Mt Everest Adventures has now started accepting bitcoin for its adventure packages – which include summiting Mount Everest itself.
The company, which is run from Australia by CEO Aseem Jha, offers a variety of excursions and treks in Nepal – from sightseeing trips around Kathmandu and its locale, to light tramps in the forested Himalayan foothills and tougher treks through stunning scenery to the Annapurna and Everest base camps.
However, the king of them all has to be the expedition to the very peak of the tallest mountain in the world – a trip that takes intrepid visitors up through the high grasslands on the Chinese side of the border, past yaks and their herders, to the Chinese Base Camp.
This is where the serious climbing starts towards a (hopefully) successful summit of the mountain at 8,848 metres above sea level.
For companies such as Mt Everest Adventures, which rely on foreign customers for their survival, accepting payments from outside the country is both complex and expensive.
One of the problems is that Nepali currency, the rupee, is tightly controlled. The company says:
"Even in [these] modern times e-commerce is not practised due to financial restrictions. For that reason, any kind of business has to be dependent on foreign e-commerce support [which entails] paying a lot on commissions just for running e-commerce on our behalf."
Bitcoin offers a way to make international payments a lot easier for the company, and importantly, a lot cheaper, with fees far below those of traditional payments providers.
Jha said that after talking to a friend about the expense of getting paid in fiat currencies, he realised that bitcoin could offer a solution.
After some investigation, he decided to team up with Australia-based exchange and payment solution provider CoinJar to start accepting the digital currency.
"Nepali currency has no value when it leaves the country and is tightly controlled. We believe that bitcoin, a new decentralized cryptocurrency is the solution for a small, dominated country like Nepal," the company said.
“We have a hope that we won’t have to depend on any restrictions imposed by foreign countries."
CoinJar allows Mt Everest Adventures to place a bitcoin payments widget on the website and charges only a 1% fee to its merchants.
"With bitcoin we only pay almost nothing. With the banks [...] first there is the 2 to 3% that your payment gateway charges, then they charge on forex exchange, and we also need to have a merchant account to accept payments which costs monthly fees. More than saving, though, it is about easiness."
The service launched today and unfortunately there is a technical hitch with the bitcoin widget, so Jha says has not taken any bitcoin as yet. However, he has had positive feedback from potential customers about the new service:
"When i was building the site I shared this idea with bitcoin communities and they were quiet excited to trek in Nepal."
So, if you have bitcoin to burn on the climb of a lifetime, Jha said that to summit Mt Everest will cost about $30,000 per person – which equates to about 53.3 BTC at today's prices.
However, if that's too steep a proposition, either fiscally or physically, there are plenty of cheaper and easier treks on the company's website.