“It will be the least crowded year on Everest for decades.” Thus Lukas Furtenbach, head of the Austrian expedition operator Furtenbach Adventures, advertised this year’s expeditions to the highest mountain on earth a few days ago. Unlike in previous years, the company not only offers the ascent on the Tibetan north side but also on the south side of Everest – not least because of the still unclear situation caused by the worldwide corona crisis. “We are preparing everything for both sides and are thus prepared to move everything to one (open) side – if necessary”, Lukas writes to me. “Let’s hope for the best!”
Corona certificate on entry
Due to the Corona epidemic, Nepal has extended the stricter entry regulations to travelers from Germany, France and Spain from today. Until now, they only applied to people from China, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Japan. Citizens of these eight nations can no longer obtain a visa when entering Nepal, as is usually the case, but must obtain it in advance from the Nepalese embassy or a consulate in their home country. In addition, they must present a medical certificate on arrival that they have not tested positive for the coronavirus. The certificate must not be older than seven days.
Land crossings closed
The Nepalese immigration authorities also “strongly recommend to use the Tribuhavan International Airport, Kathmandu, the only entry-exit point that will be remaining open for arrival and departure in Nepal”. The land border crossings will remain closed until further notice, it is said. This means that expedition teams will not be able to travel to the north side of Everest via Kathmandu and the Kerung border crossing for the time being.
No cancellations yet
“For Everest, we are continuing as planned and have no cancellations,” writes Lukas Furtenbach. “Rather the opposite: We are currently receiving many enquiries from participants of other expeditions where the organizers have cancelled the expedition.” Also the German operator Amical alpin, which has the eight-thousander Makalu and several trekking tours in Nepal in their programme this spring, has so far been spared cancellations. “Our participants are willing to travel to Nepal and are looking forward to their spring trips”, Dominik Müller, head of Amical, writes to me.
Icefall doctors are on the way
In Nepal, despite the Corona crisis, the impression of business as usual is conveyed regarding Everest. According to a report of the newspaper “The Himalayan Times”, an eight-member Sherpa team left Namche Bazaar today for Everest Base Camp. The “Icefall doctors” are to prepare – as always in previous years – the way through the Khumbu Icefall, the first stage of the normal route on the Nepalese south side of the mountain.