Everest 2020: China Closes Everest

Everest from Tibet

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According to operators running Everest expeditions on the China/Tibet side of Everest, they were notified today, March 11, 2020, that the China Tibet Mountaineering Association aka CTMA that all permits for the spring season are canceled due to the Coronavirus. Operators are reacting differently:

Adrian Ballinger, founder of Alpenglow told me:

China officially closed Everest for spring last night (I was notified via my CTMA contacts). I agree with the decision (my partners and Dr (Monica Pérez) were leaning towards canceling based on news of the past week) and think that once again China is demonstrating leadership in prioritizing safety on their side of the mountain.

In a press release, Alpenglow addressed switching to the Nepal side:

Switching the climbing route over to Nepal, that allows access to the southern side of the mountain, is also not an option for Alpenglow. “Nepal may follow China’s lead and shut down their season as well,” says Ballinger. “Even if they don’t, the threat of a Covid-19 outbreak and the underlying issues of ascending from the south side, including the lack of effective management, overcrowding, and an unpredictable icefall, make such an expedition unsafe in our eyes. It’s not a gamble we’re willing to take.”

Lukas Furtenbach of Furtenbach Adventures, a large operator on the Tibet side told me he would move to the Nepal side.

Nepal and Operators Spin a Different Story

Thus far Nepal has not made any decision and the Prime Minister said last month, “‘Nepal is coronavirus free” even though the World Health Organization has put Nepal at “very high” risk of a Covid-19 outbreak.

Amazingly Western operators are parroting their propaganda. SummitClimb sent an email to their clients promoting climbing in Nepal this season:

The Nepal Government reports one case of Coronavirus. The person received treatment, has recovered, was retested and does not have the coronavirus now. Kathmandu airport staff are checking each traveler for fever, if any are found they are taken immediately to hospital. So far, no one has Corona virus covid-19. Most flights from China have been cancelled and all land borders with China are closed. India has a very low incidence of Corona Virus Covid-19 and India/Nepal border staff are checking each individual’s temperature upon entry.

According to Nepali tourism reports, 169,500 Chinese visited Nepal in 2019, second only to India with 254,000. Of note, India closed its border with Myanmar. Also, Nepal put 71 Chinese in quarantine who returned to Nepal between March 4 and 6 from Chengdu and Beijing after celebrating the Chinese New Year. They were in were in Pokhara working at the new airport.

Nepal Everest Impact

IMG continues to plan:

In Nepal, Ang Jangbu and Senior Guide, Phunuru Sherpa, sent word that a team of 14 Advanced Sherpa will meet Ang Pasang in Gorakshep on the 20th of March and begin building our camp site at Everest Base Camp on March 21st.

Nepali officials added visa steps for travelers from eight countries experiencing the highest levels of the Coronavirus. The usual process for most visitors is to obtain a visa at the airport once they arrive. Now visitors from eight countries, China, Iran, Italy, Korea, and Japan plus France, Germany and Spain must get their visas in their home country before arriving in Nepal. Note, this does NOT stop visitors from coming to Nepal, only adds an additional step before leaving their home country. Also, by omission, it doesn’t impact any other countries.

Meanwhile, Nepal media reports that the Icefall doctors are en route to base camp to begin fixing the route through the Khumbu Icefall. Also, the government asked that the teams fixing the rope put dual lines wherever possible to address crowds. This is interesting because the Sherpas and rope fixers know where to put extra lines and have had dual lines on the Lhotse Face and other places for years. This is another public relations spin by the government to address concerns in my view.

I assume Nepal will not close its side prioritizing money over health. As I reported last week, officials told me they expect the number of climbers to be cut in half due to cancellations from Chinese, Japanese, and Korean climbers. I’ve been told directly from several western climbers that they will go to Everest in 2021, not 2020 due to virus concerns. 

Assuming Nepal does not act, we can expect the Nepal side to have fewer climbers than in 2019 but still crowded with perhaps 300 to 400 foreigners plus the same number of support climbers. This remains fluid and unknown. There were 876 total summits by all climbers and support on all routes in 2019.

Climb On!
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4 thoughts on “Everest 2020: China Closes Everest

  1. We are with Alpenglow and won’t be going this year (are signed up). We appreciate their focus on health and safety. Thanks for this article, Alan. Greetings from Covid-19 land. Seattle, WA

    1. I was with the Alpenglow Everest climb too. I agree, Adrian made the tough, but right decision. Be safe in Seattle. See you next year! Richard

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