Climbing season on Mount Everest on the brink?

Mount Everest

The corona situation in Nepal is escalating. Today, authorities in the Himalayan state registered 7,137 new Covid-19 infections, more than ever before in one day. Forty-three percent of the tests carried out were positive, another record since the pandemic began more than a year ago. The last doubts should now be dispelled: The current explosive spread of the coronavirus in neighboring India has spilled over into Nepal. The Nepalese Ministry of Health had already sounded the alarm on Friday. “The health system is not able to cope and a situation has already arisen in which hospital beds cannot be made available,” the ministry let it be known. Hospitals lack not only beds but also oxygen to ventilate the critically ill.

Domestic flights suspended from Tuesday

Lukla airfield, the gateway to the Everest region

Today, the government decided to suspend all domestic flights from 0 a.m. local time Tuesday until further notice.  International flights to and from states particularly hard hit by the pandemic – including India – are to be suspended at midnight next Wednesday.

The halt to domestic flights is particularly likely to affect climbers on Mount Everest and Nepal’s other high mountains. From Tuesday onwards, it will no longer be possible to take a helicopter from base camp to Kathmandu. It has not yet been announced whether rescue flights will also be affected by the suspension of air traffic.

Accident in the Khumbu icefall

Today, Sunday, a serac collapsed in the Khumbu Icefall, the first stage of the normal route on Everest. A foreign climber and a Sherpa were injured and flown by helicopter to Kathmandu. The icefall remains impassable until the Icefall Doctors have repaired the route.

More than 1,000 people are currently staying at Everest Base Camp. In recent days, several dozen climbers infected with the coronavirus are said to have been flown out by helicopter to Kathmandu. The Nepalese government has so far stubbornly denied that there is a corona problem on Everest. Whether it is still responsible to do business as usual on the highest mountain on earth in view of the dramatic worsening of the situation throughout Nepal is another matter.

Update 3 May: The government has announced that all international flights will be suspended from midnight 6 May until 14 May, with the exception of two flights per week from New Delhi. Rescue flights by helicopter are reportedly to be exempted from the suspension of domestic flights.

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