AGENCIES, Kathmandu: The coronavirus impact is being felt on top of the world. A day after China stopped all expeditions from its side, Nepal announced on Friday it is shutting down Mount Everest for the rest of this year’s climbing season amid the worsening global pandemic.
The move followed reports from climbers that the Chinese government has shut the Tibet side of the mountain.
“Expeditions to Mount Everest have been closed with immediate effect. Climbing permits are cancelled till the end of April,” Nepal’s tourism secretary Kedar Bahadur Adhikari said.
The decision comes at the start of this year’s closely watched climbing season, which was already getting underway amid concerns around overcrowding on the Earth’s highest peak. Permits to climb Everest cost around $11,000.
“The government has decided to suspend all spring expeditions and scrap permits for the time being. The decision can be reviewed after analysing the global scenario over the coming month,” said tourism minister Yogesh Bhattara.
“This is disappointing news for both our expedition leaders and our clients who have trained for months for this year’s climb,” said Lukas Furtenbach, the founder and CEO of a guided expedition company. “We understand the dire consequences a Covid-19 outbreak at base camp would have. Sadly, we have to agree that this is a responsible call to make right now,” he added.
Adrian Ballinger, head of the group Alpenglow Expeditions, had said earlier this week that he was informed by the Chinese government agency responsible for granting permission to climb the Tibetan side of the mountain that access has been stopped there as well.
Most trekking companies operate in Nepal, as climbing in Tibet has become more expensive and more controlled in recent years. Last year, 11 people died trying to climb the mountain, and dramatic pictures showed huge lines of climbers waiting to reach the summit. A variety of factors were blamed, including adverse weather and an increase in the number of climbing permits granted.