Despite coronavirus scare, more than 170 climbers summit Everest in a dayWith a record 408 permits issued, the mountain remains crowded even after many abandoned their ascent as climbers and guides show Covid-19 symptoms.
More than 170 climbers reached the summit of Everest on Sunday and another 100 or so are hoping to climb the mountain on Monday.
“The second window of good weather opened on Sunday and more than 170 climbers reached the summit. We are expecting another 100 successful climbs on Monday,” said Mira Acharya, director of the Department of Tourism.
The exact number of ascents so far is not immediately available.
There could be more climbs during the second window. After Monday there is a brief period of good weather on Wednesday but it is not clear whether it will last long enough to allow a summit bid, according to Acharya.
With a record 408 permits issued to climb the 8,848.86-metre mountain despite the pandemic, Everest is crowded. The highest number of permits issued before this year was 381 in 2019. There were no mountaineering expeditions in Nepal last year as the country remained closed to foreigners because of the pandemic.
Each foreign permit holder usually has one high altitude guide to help him get to the top, meaning that there could be some 800 summiteers if all get to the top.
During the first good weather window from May 10 to May 12, around 150 had reached the summit.
With the good weather window being small and the number of climbers high, the Department of Tourism this year introduced a new system of quotas to make the summit attempt as per which not more than 170 are allowed to reach the top on a particular day.
A picture of a long line of mountaineers waiting to get to the summit in May 2019 went viral, raising questions about Nepali officials’ disregard for the lives of mountaineers as a long exposure to the elements at high altitudes are risky.
Besides those waiting at Camp 4 at 7,950 metres, from where climbers launch their final summit bid, 55 percent of Everest hopefuls are waiting for their turn to get to the top, according to Mingma Sherpa, chairman of Seven Summit Treks, the largest expedition outfitter.
This means around 400 climbers will have to wait for the final window and everyone will not be lucky, according to expedition organisers.
But not everyone may be able to make a push for the summit given the quota and the crowd despite having spent as much as $90,000 that a climber forks out to climb the mountain, including $11,000 for the permit.
The final weather window is only expected to last two days.
“Another good window has been forecast on May 29 and 30,” said Acharya.
The spring mountaineering season in Nepal lasts till the end of May.
“Obviously, this year, it’s difficult to manage. All will depend on how the weather will behave later this week,” said Mingma Sherpa.
The number of climbers still on the mountain may be high but it does not include those that have already abandoned their climbs because of the coronavirus outbreak.
On April 15, Norwegian national Erlend Ness was the first to leave the mountain because of Covid-19-like symptoms and he was found to have been infected with the coronavirus. There have been reports of more infections on the mountain since then but authorities have said that the situation is under control and strict guidelines have been placed for expeditions not to mingle with each other.
That, however, was no consolation for two international expedition companies and they have already abandoned their climbs citing a risk of virus transmission.
A week ago, Austrian Furtenbach Adventures abandoned its attempt to scale Everest after its seven sherpas fell ill with Covid-19-like symptoms as Nepal battles a brutal second wave of infections.
Tendi Sherpa, managing director of Iceland Trekking and Expedition, the local company supporting the Austrian company, said it had 21 foreign climbers and 15 of them decided to quit.
However, six have been searching for other local agencies to help them in their expedition with guides and other support since they have decided to continue their climbs, he said.
On Saturday, another international outfitter, Mountain Trip, cancelled its expedition.
The company said on its Facebook Page: “Our team in Nepal has made the extremely tough, but necessary call to end our 2021 Mount Everest Expedition. While it’s a difficult decision to make when considering all of the work, years of preparation, sacrifice and resources that have gone into the expedition, it’s the only sensible outcome from a risk management standpoint.”
“While we did our best throughout the expedition to be as Covid responsible as possible (and at the beginning of the season it looked like Covid was on the decline) there has been a sharp spike of cases throughout Nepal that we couldn’t predict or fully avoid, even with being cautious. Six of our Sherpa team have been evacuated to Kathmandu with Covid symptoms,” the company added.
It said that sherpas were no longer available to help the team go higher by carrying essential resources to the upper camps.
Nepal on Sunday reported 7,598 new infections, a slight drop from the more than 8,000 it has been reporting for nearly three weeks. The country’s total infections count has reached 513,241 with 115,547 of them active. The total death toll is 6,347 with 193 reported on Sunday.