COVID Fears Can't Stop Hundreds of Climbers Making Final Push to the Top of the World


A year after Mount Everest was closed to climbers due to the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds are making the final push to the summit with only a few more days left in the season, undeterred by reports of an outbreak in the base camp.

Three expedition teams to Everest canceled their climb this month following reports of people getting sick.

But the remaining 41 teams decided to continue with hundreds of climbers and their guides scaling the 29,032-foot mountain before bad weather sets in.

“Even though the coronavirus has reached the Everest base camp, it has not made any huge effect like what is being believed outside of the mountain,” said Mingma Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks, the biggest expedition operator on Everest.

“No one has really fallen seriously sick because of COVID or died like the rumors that have been spreading.”

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With 122 clients from 10 teams on Everest, the company led the biggest group but there were no serious illnesses among them, he said.

In April, a Norwegian climber became the first to test positive at the Everest base camp. He was flown by helicopter to Kathmandu, where he was treated and later returned home.

Prominent guide Lukas Furtenbach of Austria decided to halt his expedition this month and pull out his clients because of an outbreak among team members.

After returning from the mountain, Furtenbach estimated more than 100 climbers and staff have been infected. He said in an interview last week that he believed there were many cases at the base camp because he could see people were sick and could hear them coughing.

“I think with all the confirmed cases we know now — confirmed from [rescue] pilots, from insurance, from doctors, from expedition leaders — I have the positive tests so we can prove this,” Furtenbach told The Associated Press.

China last week canceled climbing from its side of Everest.

On Friday, Nepal reported 6,951 new confirmed cases and 96 deaths, bringing the nation’s totals since the pandemic began to more than 549,000 infections and 7,047 deaths.

Another expedition, by the Colorado-based company Mountain Trip, also announced it was pulling out of Everest.

“While it’s a difficult decision to make when considering all of the work, years of preparation, sacrifice and resources that have went into the expedition, it’s the only sensible outcome from a risk management standpoint,” a statement by the company said.

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Six Sherpa guides working for the company have been evacuated to Kathmandu with COVID-19 symptoms, it said.

A total of 408 foreign climbers were issued permits to climb Everest this season, aided by several hundred Sherpas and staff who have been stationed at the base camp since April.

Since Everest was first conquered on May 29, 1953, by Sir Edmund Hillary and a Sherpa mountaineer, thousands of people have scaled the peak and many Sherpas have done it multiple times. Veteran guide Kami Rita scaled the summit a record 25th time this month.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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