This is the time of year when throngs of would-be conquerers descend on Nepal to climb the world’s tallest mount, Mt. Everest. This year is different.
Every year, climbers from all over the world book with companies in the hopes of reach the zenith of the Earth, the top of Mt. Everest. Each year, some will die. We are only a few days removed from the tragic events of 1996 when sudden weather trapped climbers above base camp leading to one of the most deadly climbs on the mountain. It was later recounted by John Krakauer in his book “Into thin air” and also memorialized in the movie Everest.
This year, there is another problem plaguing base camp. Covid.
Already running wild across India with surges in both the number of cases and death totals, the virus has now spread to the Nepal side of the mountain where many are being taken down from base camp and testing positive for the virus.
In a Washington Post article, Nepal lifted its 7-day quarantine period in an effort to revive the economy that was suffering without tourism. While there is still a 72-hour negative test rule in place, it isn’t helping the situation.
Aside from no tests available at base camp, the Post article points out that it is near impossible to tell the difference between a virus cough and the typical coughs associated with the altitude.
The article says that the Nepal government is saying only three people have tested positive but that is not likely the case and there are reports that others have tested positive and have been removed from the mountain as a result.
The next several weeks are key for this time of year in Nepal and while most travel to India is expected to dwindle, the fact that Nepal is still open could become another trouble spot. If you are planning a trip to see the mountain or the country, it may be better to wait until this has all passed which may not be until next year.
Sadly, over-crowding and tourism has made Everest a destination more for climbers. Visitors to the region have steadily reported how bad the area has been left after the climbers leave and Sherpas have reported that most climbers leave the mountain full of trash upon their exit.