Climbers return to Nepal’s peaks after a year

After the COVID-19 pandemic halted Himalayan expeditions, climbers are all set to return to Nepal’s peaks after a year, with high altitude guides being seen fixing ropes and ladders at the Mt Everest Base Camp

Mar 26, 2021
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After the COVID-19 pandemic halted Himalayan expeditions, climbers are all set to return to Nepal’s peaks after a year, with high altitude guides being seen fixing ropes and ladders at the Mt Everest Base Camp.

According to the Department of Tourism nearly 300 foreign climbers are expected to attempt climbing Everest this year, according to the Nepali Times newspaper.

They said the numbers are high because of demand as well as the Chinese side of the world’s highest mountain being closed indefinitely.

With the onset of March, there has been a surge in applications for climbing permits and flight bookings, said officials.

The re-opening of Mt Everest and other mountains in Nepal this climbing season has also come as a ray of hope for hundreds of thousands of lodge owners, porters, cooks and expedition employees, who have been without income for a year. Nepal went into its first COVID lockdown on March 23, 2020.

Officials said there are altogether 30 expeditions attempting Mt Everest, and some of them including a 15-member team from the Bahraini Royal Guard have already completed their quarantines and established Base Camp on the Khumbu Icefall.

Bahrain’s Royal Guard was the only foreign expedition to receive a special permit to climb Manaslu during the pandemic, and acclimatised on Lobuje is the Khumbu before that. 

The team returned to scale Mount Everest in April-May, and according to the team’s Instagram, all members of the Bahraini Everest team was vaccinated before flying in.

They have also brought 2,000 doses of the Chinese vaccine Sinovac to inoculate the people of Samagaon in Upper Gorkha. But the vaccine is yet to get approval from the Ministry of Health.

The Nepal government’s decision to waive quarantine for tourists with vaccine passes means the numbers of climbers to go up, officials said.

“The climbers are moving in all kinds of supplies, from food, tents, gear to stacks of oxygen cylinders to Base Camp,” says Mingma Sherpa of Himalayan Trail Blazers, an expedition support company, to the newspaper.

According to Dipendra Karna of Buddha Airlines, “Tourism businesses are hoping that the economy that has been suspended since the beginning of the pandemic will pick up now.”

For the climbers, it is an exciting time as they wait to take on the peaks.

On Everest, Kami Rita Sherpa hopes to make his 25th Everest summit this spring, while Lukas Furtenbach of the California-based guiding company, Furtenbach Adventures is assisting 22 climbers in five teams, two of them on Everest.

Three Nepali women, Maya Sherpa, Poornima Shrestha and Sharmila Syangtyan will be climbing Annapurna I from the north side. Annapurna is the tenth highest mountain in the world, and regarded as one of the most dangerous in the Himalaya, mainly because of avalanche and rockfall danger. One in three climbers attempting the peak does not make it down alive.

Slovak climber Peter Hamor and Romanians Horia Colibasanu and Marius Ganu are gearing up for Dhaulagiri, and another attempt to complete their 2019 route along the formidable northwest ridge of the world’s seventh highest mountain.

But, the fear of the second wave of COVID hitting the Himalayan republic has led the government to issue public warnings about mandatory masking, avoiding crowds, and maintaining social distancing.

Mira Acharya, the head of the Mountaineering Divison at the Department of Tourism told the newspaper that all climbers have been asked to strictly follow safety and health protocols.

“We have opened up this spring only after ensuring that all back-up support is in place for the health and safety of climbers and support staff as well as search and rescue and other security measures.”

Last week, the Nepali government announced that the climbers would not be allowed to post on social media photographs of themselves on the mountains without permission.

In 2019, there were 381 foreign climbers on Mt Everest and many of them bunched up during a two-day weather window on May 22, creating a traffic jam below the summit.

Nepal has revised its rules and required those attempting Everest to have climbed at least one Himalayan peak above 6,500m high (SAM)

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