General quarantine for mountain tourists in Nepal?

Manaslu

2020 threatens to become a black year for expedition and trekking operators in Nepal. First they lost the entire spring season because of the corona lockdown, now the same threatens to happen in fall. Just a few days ago, the first operators like Imagine Nepal had announced eight-thousander expeditions for early September. Mingma Gyalje Sherpa’s company wanted to lead climbers to the summits of Manaslu and Dhaulagiri. “We were planning to run the expeditions and booking was quite good,” Mingma replied to my question as to whether there were enough interested climbers for the expeditions.

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Flights do not make climbing season yet

In the Everest region

After all, there is still a small spark of hope for an at least modest fall season in the Himalayas. According to the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism, it is planning to allow foreign and domestic flights again from 1 August – subject to safety requirements. Due to the corona lockdown, all flights to and in Nepal are still prohibited until at least 5 July. Since the beginning of the week, the government has been processing visa applications again – first of all, however, to extend the visas of foreigners living in Nepal.

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Medicine against altitude sickness as a corona rescuer?

Suddenly the whole world is talking about dexamethasone – a drug that high-altitude climbers and trekking tourists traveling in the Himalayas or the Karakoram have known for a long time. According to the participating scientists, a British study showed that the death rate of COVID-19 patients on artificial respiration decreased by about one third when doctors administered dexamethasone to them. However, the steroid showed no effect in a mild course of the disease.

British Health Minister Matt Hancock spoke of “brilliant news” and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, President of the World Health Organization (WHO) called it a “lifesaving scientific breakthrough”. German scientists warn against premature euphoria. Thus, the side effects of the drug would also have to be taken into account. Moreover, it is obviously only useful in severe cases and does not replace a vaccine against the coronavirus that is still needed.

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Khumbu politician Nim Dorje Sherpa is dead

Nim Dorje Sherpa

One of the most popular politicians in the region around Mount Everest is dead. Nim Dorje Sherpa, head of the Khumbu Pasanglhamu rural municipality died of intestinal cancer at the age of only 39 years in his home village of Lukla. Nim Dorje had fought against the disease for ten months, in vain in the end. He leaves behind his wife and three sons.

“His death is an irreparable loss to not only the Sherpa community but also to the entire Solukhumbu district,” Ang Dorje Sherpa, chairman of Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC) told the “Himalayan Times”. The SPCC takes care of environmental protection in the Everest National Park. Nim Dorje always strived for peace and development believing in teamwork, Ang Dorje added.

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Ang Tshering Sherpa: “Nepal’s mountain community is hardest hit by the corona crisis”

Trekking in the Khumbu region

The curves speak a clear language. According to John Hopkins University in the USA, which registers all officially reported coronavirus cases worldwide, the pandemic has not yet peaked in Nepal. Since the beginning of May, the curve has been rising continuously – around 5,000 infections have been registered so far, 16 COVID-19 deaths. The number of unreported cases is likely to be very high given the comparatively low number of coronavirus tests in the country. Yesterday, the police in Kathmandu used water cannons to stop a rally of about 1,000 people in front of the house of Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli. Among other things, the demonstrators had demanded more corona tests than before. The strict lockdown in Nepal has been in effect since 24 March and will remain in force for the time being until this Sunday. Oli has announced a slight easing of the restrictions.

Successful mountaineering official and entrepreneur

Ang Tshering Sherpa

The standstill in public life has hit the mountain tourism industry of the Himalayan state hard. I have asked Ang Tshering Sherpa about this. The 66-year-old was the head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) for many years and is an honorary member of the UIAA, the World Mountaineering and Climbing Federation. Ang Tshering comes from the village of Khumjung in the Khumbu region and was one of the first students at the Edmund Hillary School, financed and built by the Himalayan Trust, the aid organization of the New Zealander who made the first ascent of Mount Everest along with the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. In 1982 Ang Tshering Sherpa founded Asian Trekking, one of the leading providers of expeditions and trekking tours in Nepal. Now his son Dawa Steven Sherpa is the company’s CEO.

Ang Tshering, do you understand people who have put their plans for a trip to Nepal on hold out of concern about the corona pandemic?

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Marc Batard before Everest comeback at 70: “I’m in great shape”

Marc Batard

The “sprinter”, as he was once called, will return to Mount Everest. In spring 2022 Marc Batard wants to climb the highest mountain on earth without bottled oxygen – at the age of 70. If he succeeds, Marc would then most likely be by far the oldest climber on the roof of the world without using a breathing mask. So far, this Everest record is held by the Italian Abele Blanc, who reached the highest point on earth in 2010 at the age of 55 years and 264 days. For years, Batard had completely retired from high altitude climbing and devoted himself to painting.

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Dangerous game with mountain tourism in Pakistan

The 8611-meter-high K2 in Pakistan

“We are opening tourism, because these three to four months are important for the people associated with tourism. Otherwise more joblessness will occur at these places,” Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan surprisingly announced earlier this week. The former country’s cricket superstar, who has been head of government since August 2018, specifically mentioned the northern provinces of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There the highest mountains in Pakistan are located, including the five eight-thousanders K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I, Gasherbrum II and Nanga Parbat.

According to Khan, the provincial governments would jointly make regulations under which the tourism industry could be reopened. It almost sounded as if the summer climbing season in the Karakoram could be saved against all odds – despite the coronavirus pandemic. But resistance is stirring in the regions mentioned.

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70 years ago: First summit success on an eight-thousander

Northwestern view of Annapurna (the main summit on the left)

“I was deeply touched. Never before I had felt such a feeling of happiness,” French climber Maurice Herzog later wrote about that moment on 3 June 1950, when he reached the 8,091-meter-high summit of Annapurna I with his compatriot Louis Lachenal – it was the first ascent of an eight-thousander. Both climbed without bottled oxygen on their way over the northern flank of the mountain. The way back from the summit was dramatic.

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