Mt.Everest Cancelled For Spring-2020
“The majestic mountains are immortal. It’s we tiny humans who have to tread with caution.” There is no better time to read and fully understand this quote than now. The rippling effect of coronavirus (nCoV-19) that has shaken the entire world, has now effected the climbing on the Mt.Everest. The peak which is usually climbed from two routes on Nepal (south) and Chinese (north) side, is now officially closed for all expeditions. The current status of the permits issued on both sides is on ‘hold’ and the future status will be known soon.
After the outbreak of the nCoV-19 in early January, the preparations for the spring climbing season were not really effected. But as it began to spread to the other parts of the world, the first signs of a possible shut down of the mountain for expeditions surfaced from the Chinese side in late February. But nothing was officially confirmed. By this time, it was reported that all the major teams have already postponed their expeditions from the north side to the next season. On the Nepal side, preparations were as usual but not without massive cancellations from clients signed up with major expedition operators. To make things even more assertive for the remaining climbers on the Nepal side, on the 10th of March, the ‘Icefall Doctors’ had set out to base camp to build the route up to camp-1 via the treacherous Khumbu ice fall.
But things changed on 11-March, when the Chinese Authorities reached to all the operators saying, “China is to suspend foreign expeditions on the north side of Mt.Qomolangma during the spring -2020 season due to the global spread of COVID-19.” Over the next two days, all operators who still had plans to operate on the north side, either issued public statements that they support the decision or initiating plans to move to the south side.
While this was being done, there was a different development in Nepal. In the late evening of 12th march, a high level meeting was chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal along with the officials from the Department of Tourism (who issue the permits for expeditions) and others. By midnight the news was already out that in view of the global spread of the epidemic, the Nepalese Govt. has decided to keep all the expeditions to Mt.Everest on hold. In an official statement released by Mrs. Mira Acharya, Director (Mountaineering Section), Department of Tourism, Government of Nepal, “This is to notify that climbing permits for the expedition that have already been issued or to be issued for the Spring-2020, has been halted to the present in accordance to the decision made on 12-03-2020.”
For all practical reasons, irrespective what changes might possibly be made; the Mt Everest climbing season for spring- 2020 remains closed. The full gravity of the after-effects of this closure will be known in the coming days. This includes the clients in general, while the most effected will be the Sherpa guides at the top of the chain of expedition logistics to the High Altitude porters, tea houses, yak because this is where a majority of the earnings come from each year.
As for Transcend Adventures, we will support the decision of all governments in containing the outbreak of the coronavirus and will do whatever we can to eradicate this. Your health and well-being must be your priority above everything else. If not today, the mountains can always be climbed another day. We urge all our clients and the public in general to follow all the medical hygiene practices to keep yourself and your dear ones safe.
It’s Curtains Down on Stok Kangri
In a recently held meeting of the concerned authorities, it has been decided that India’s most famous ‘Trekking Peak’ Stok Kangri, is to be closed for climbing for a period of 3 years: 2020, 2021 & 2021. An official notice of the same will be issued soon by the authorities.
Standing at 6154m, this peak is the tallest in the Stok region in Ladakh. Over the years, this peak has garnered the name ‘Trekking Peak’. During the peak season, of July-August when the snow conditions along the route are bare minimum, the peak is relatively easy to tackle. But make no mistake, like any other mountain, even this one has been unforgiving with those who have taken her lightly.
The peak has gained so much popularity due to one reason: accessibility. The nearest large town is Leh and within an hour one can drive down to Stok Village, the point where the trek begins. Over the years, operators have made the trails very accessible and the ‘Ghodas’ (mules) go all the way to the base camp at 5000m, making it a very ‘luxurious’ camp. As a result, more number of people climbed this peak. Stok Kangri became the got to peak for every climber who wanted to scale their first ‘Big Peak’. Certain operators took the advantage of this want and each season over-populated the region during the peak season. In order to make a quick buck, these operators made itineraries as low as 6-days, promising them a ‘Summit of 6k Peak’. While the standard safe itinerary for a mountain like Stok is not less than 10-Days!!! Couple this with the ignorance of the general public, who most often take the term ‘Trekking Peak’ quite easy. Practically put, a majority of the route up to 5500m is ‘Trekkable’ indeed. But from there a steep climb on the ridge, all the way to the top is by no means just trekking. And not to forget, the descent!
Due to this over-crowding, apart from the obvious dangers to human life, the entire eco-system of the area took a severe beating. This includes contamination of the glaciers by human waste, which are the only source of water for the people of Stok. In addition, this area has been so upset the human presence that has directly affected the territory of the endangered snow leopard. To top it all off, the omnipresent trash. In the last few years, certain organizations have spearheaded the initiative of cleaning up the mountain. In July-2018, a clean-up drive conducted by a popular organization brought down a massive 2100 kgs of trash from the mountain!
On a positive side, Stok-Kangri has been the ‘training’ peak of many experienced and successful mountaineers. The peak is a huge challenge to ascend in winter and every major 8000m expedition team has used this peak to train in the unforgiving cold! At Transcend Adventures, we welcome this news and hope the eco-system around this season flourishes during the closure. As for the future, we wish the mountain to be open for climbing, with limited number of climbers each season.
China Increases Permit Fee for Mt.Everest
The Chinese Mountaineering Association (CMA) has announced a major spike in the cost of obtaining a permit for Mt.Everest and other 8000m peaks. This move which has been speculative since quite some time, was finally announced last week. The new prices for Everest are as follows:
Per Foreign Climber
|Peak||Min PAX||Old Price||New Price||Service||Difference|
Per Nepalese Sherpa
|Peak||Old Price||New Price||Difference|
^ For 8000m peaks, PAX less than 4 persons are not permitted
Similarly, there has been a steep price increase for the other mountains which are climbed from Tibet: Cho-Oyu & Shishapangma.
As one can see, there is a substantial increase in the price across all major options. How much will this affect from people climbing the Big E from the North Side, only the upcoming season will tell. As for Cho-Oyu, an alternate route from the Nepalese side may be opened from Spring-2020. And the person doing this is the superman Nirmal ‘Nims Dai’ Purja. Whether Cho-Oyu will be as convenient to climb from the south side, we will only know once it’s done. For Shishapangma, the only 8000er that totally lies within Tibet, there seems to be no other way round.
We all know the Chinese pretty well and it’s highly unlikely that the decision will be reversed. Hence, let’s look at the positive scenarios on the North Side of Mt.Everest:
But, again the lure of ‘Mt.Everest’ has been legendary. Will this price hike keep people really at bay? Only the season will tell. Until then, we hope everyone who has been aiming for Everest-2020 are putting in the sweat and getting super ready! All the best!!