“The situation is escalating,” Lukas Furtenbach writes to me. “There are many new cases in all teams.” Because of a corona outbreak at Everest Base Camp, the head of Austrian operator Furtenbach Adventures has pulled the emergency brake and become the first major team to abort the expedition.
“I didn’t make the decision easy for myself,“ says Furtenbach. “But to climb with these massively increasing corona numbers at base camp and risk the lives of our 20 customers, four mountain guides and 27 Sherpas carelessly, would be irresponsible.”
Parties despite corona danger
The expedition leader makes serious accusations against other organizers at base camp: “With some teams, elementary precautionary measures were simply not observed. There were meetings between the teams, there were celebrations, parties were held. That is why the sudden increase in corona infected people.” Furtenbach expresses surprise that the government of Nepal has not intervened so far.
Risk of ascent too high
Actually, Furtenbach’s team had completed their acclimatization, and the summit attempt was to be started at the next good weather window. However, the risk of catching an infection in the high camps, where there was much less space, was too high. “Anyone who becomes infected with COVID-19 at high altitude, then develops symptoms and becomes ill, is very difficult to help”, says Furtenbach. “We do not take this risk, which is why our expedition is stopped immediately.”
On Friday, the spring season on the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest had ended prematurely. Out of concern that Chinese climbers could catch the coronavirus at the summit – from climbers ascending from the Nepalese south side.