“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.