Chinese officials have closed access to Mount Everest from Tibet amid coronavirus fears. The famous mountain can, however, be climbed from its northern and southern side, as per reliable sources.
“Today, China announced the closure of Mt. Everest for the spring season,” wrote Adrian Ballinger, climber, and founder of Alpenglow Expeditions, in a post on Instagram.
Mt. Everest Expeditions are Closed on the Chinese Side
The March-May season is the best for climbing the Himalayan mountain, but on Wednesday, Alpenglow Expedition called off its spring climbing season from the Chinese region of the mountain.
“Even though this is heartbreaking, I think it was the responsible thing to do,” said Ballinger in a statement. “If you can imagine you are bringing 500 to 1000 people together at base camp, from 20 to 50 different countries – there’s a good chance someone will bring Coronavirus with them to base camp. Then if you can imagine an upper respiratory illness combined with high altitude, which affects the respiratory system, this is an extremely dangerous combination.”
Ballinger also mentioned that if a climber became sick and wouldn’t be able to immediately be hospitalized, the respiratory disease could become pneumonia at altitude, infecting other members of the team.
“A Covid-19 outbreak at base camp would be devastating,” he added.
Climber Lukas Furtenbach, the founder of Furtenbach Adventures, said that his expedition agency had predicted the Chinese closure of the north side of Mt. Everest.
He explained: “We have already prepared for this scenario, and as a precaution, we made all necessary arrangements to shift the expedition to the south side to Nepal, in case China closes the mountain. This is a difficult situation for all, but also offers the rare chance of climbing the south side without the crowds. Nepal restrictions are not affecting our team. We have our visas.”
Nepal Issues Travel Restrictions
Coronavirus fears have also made authorities in Nepal to implement immigration limits on visitors from a few countries, which could affect the Mt. Everest climbing season. The officials have announced a temporary suspension of visa-on-arrival for visitors from China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, and Japan.
The restrictions were applied on Tuesday, March 10th, and further ones will be implemented for visitors from France, Germany, and Spain on Friday, March 13th. Authorities said, though, that visitors from those countries who want to travel to Nepal can still apply for a visa from abroad Nepalese embassies before they visit.
“Those applicants and also the nationals transiting from these countries bound to arrive Nepal are required to submit a recently issued health certificate stating that they are not infected by COVID-19 along with their visa applications,” the statement released by the authorities said. “The aforementioned health certificate will be scrutinized both at the airport in Kathmandu and the land border entry-exit points of Nepal.”
In the last few years, overcrowding on Mt. Everest has become a significant issue as increasing numbers of climbers try to scale the mountain. Last year, reports of melting glaciers on Mt. Everest revealed the bodies of dead climbers, raising concern from the organizers of expeditions to the deadly peak.
Meanwhile, authorities in Nepal have issued a ban on single-use plastics at the mountain amid concerns about trash on Mount Everest.