Caixin
May 17, 2021 04:48 PM

China Cancels Spring Climbing Season for Everest on Coronavirus Concerns

Climbers rest at a base camp located at the north of Mount Everest on May 9. Photo: VCG
Climbers rest at a base camp located at the north of Mount Everest on May 9. Photo: VCG

China has canceled the spring climbing season for ascending Mount Everest from its northern side amid concerns that expeditions to the top of the world’s tallest mountain might allow the new coronavirus to spread from neighboring Nepal.

The General Administration of Sport announced the decision Friday, saying mountaineers with permits to climb Everest should stop their ascents, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

Before the announcement, a total of 21 Chinese climbers from a Tibetan company had been approved to ascend the summit this spring, according to Nima Tsering, director of the Tibet Autonomous Region Sports Bureau. Another 17 people had been allowed to travel to North Col, the pass that serves as the location of the base camp for those climbing the mountain from the northern side.

The precautionary measure comes as China is trying to stop coronavirus cases coming in from Nepal, where more than 7,000 patients a day have contracted the virus for 11 straight days. The country has so far reported more than 455,000 cases and 5,000 deaths from the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Every year, climbers from all over the world attempt to reach Everest’s summit in May, the month seen as the ideal “window” for the climb because there is less rain and snow on the mountain. Nonetheless, climbers still need to deal with the risks posed by the difficult conditions at the heights of Everest, which include temperatures that can fall as low as -40 Celsius.

Tibet’s health authorities said they will establish “a line of separation” at the summit to prevent climbers ascending from different sides of Everest, which straddles the common border of China and Nepal, from coming in contact with each other. However, it remains unclear how the two sides will be cordoned off from each other on the small, snow-covered summit.

The authorities plan to disinfect the tents, cafeterias and bathrooms at the base camp every day and send those with any unusual health symptoms to a designated facility for medical observation, local authorities said.

So far this year, a number of teams have reached the peak of the 8,848-meter (29,031-foot) mountain. On May 10, a 16-member Bahrain Royal Guard team led by the heir to the throne of Bahrain became the first to conquer Everest this year.

Contact reporter Wang Xintong (xintongwang@caixin.com) and editor Michael Bellart (michaelbellart@caixin.com)

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