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China Closes Everest for the Season from the Tibetan Side

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No climbers will be allowed on Mt. Everest from the Tibetan side of the mountain this spring: China has announced that, as a measure to prevent an isolated Coronavirus disaster in Everest base camp, where treatment and evacuation would be difficult, no expeditions will be allowed to climb from the north side this year.

In a press release from his Lake Tahoe-based company Alpenglow Expeditions, Everest guide Adrian Ballinger said,  “A Covid-19 outbreak at base camp would be dangerous and potentially devastating.”

According to the press release, the respiratory stresses of high altitude increase the dangers of Coronavirus. Furthermore, base camp would be highly susceptible to community spread if someone arrived with the virus.

Ballinger said that while the Nepal has not yet made a similar decision, it may. “Nepal may follow China’s lead and shut down their season as well,” says Ballinger. But even if Nepal allows expeditions to climb Everest from its side of the border, Ballinger said, his company will not relocate their trips to that side of the border. “The threat of a Covid-19 outbreak and the underlying issues of ascending from the south side, including the lack of effective management, overcrowding, and an unpredictable icefall, make such an expedition unsafe in our eyes. It’s not a gamble we’re willing to take.”

In “Will Coronavirus Ground Mount Everest Climbers?” an article published by Rock and Ice earlier this week, Eric Simonson, co-owner of International Mountain Guides, said, “In Nepal, everything is still a go. There are about 25 expedition teams that are currently planning to climb Mount Everest.”

With China cancelling the Everest season on their side, it is possible that, as Ballinger alluded to, the Nepal side will become even more crowded than normal if expeditions that had been planning to climb from the north switch to the south.

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