Collecting armadillos. Do-it-yourself bullfighting. Riding a jetpack while drunk. Some activities are bound to attract a small group of dedicated, often wealthy people who welcome risk and whose pastimes call for an unusual amount of daring and finesse. This week, two of those groups combined, as Australia-based outfitting company Mt Everest Adventures began accepting bitcoin, an emerging digital currency, for its adventure packages, including trips to the top of Mount Everest.
According to Coindesk, the decision to accept bitcoin was driven by the fact that virtually all expedition companies working in the Himalayas must offer and accept payments in currencies besides their own. This can be an annoying (and often expensive) stumbling block. CEO Aseem Jha said he was tired of paying commissions for currency exchanges with the tightly controlled Nepalese rupee.
“First there is the 2 to 3 percent 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,” Jha said. “With bitcoin we only pay almost nothing.”
The decision to accept payments in bitcoin comes at an uncertain time for the new currency. Lauded by many investors—and a few major banks—as a competitive new means of payment, bitcoin is accepted by vendors as large as Overstock.com and gaming company Zynga. (In November, Richard Branson announced that Virgin Galactic would be accepting bitcoin for its chartered trips into space.)
Bitcoin remains much more popular among speculators than ordinary consumers, however, and during the past several months, bitcoin’s reputation has been bruised by stories of extreme volatility, money laundering, and theft.
Last month, online merchant Silk Road 2 (the child of Silk Road, which the FBI shut down in 2013 amid concerns that illegal drugs were being sold on the site) reported that a hacker had found a vulnerable spot in the site’s transaction code, ultimately withdrawing $2.7 million in digital currency.