Separation line on Everest summit? Appeal for return of oxygen bottles

Tibetan north side of Mount Everest (in 2005)

If the Chinese-Tibetan authorities have their way, the summit of Mount Everest will also become a zero-contact zone. A separation line is planned at the highest point at 8,849 meters to ensure corona safety distances between ascending climbers from the Tibetan north side and those from the Nepalese south side, Nyima Tsering, head of the Tibetan Sports Authority, told the state news agency Xinhua.

After twelve Sherpas led by Everest record holder Kami Rita Sherpa fixed the ropes up to the summit on the Nepalese side last Friday, the first commercial teams are expected on the highest point tomorrow, Tuesday. On the north side, too, the preparatory work is as good as complete, with the fixed ropes up to the last high camp at 8,300 meters. For this season, the authorities have issued permits to only 21 Chinese climbers, for foreigners the mountains of Tibet are closed – as in spring 2020 – because of the corona pandemic.

Collect empty bottles and return them quickly!

In light of the dramatic worsening of the corona situation in Nepal, both the National Mountaineering Association (NMA) and the Expedition Operator’s Association Nepal (EOA) have called on operators to provide oxygen cylinders to care for critically ill COVID-19 patients. “We appeal to climbers and sherpas to bring back their empty bottles wherever possible as they can be refilled and used for the treatment of the coronavirus patients who are in dire needs,” NMA Secretary General Kul Bahadur Gurung told Reuters news agency.

Bottled oxygen for Mount Everest
Bottled oxygen for Mount Everest

Between 4,000 and 5,000 oxygen cylinders are currently believed to be stored at Everest Base Camp and on the mountain. Since these are only small cylinders, the oxygen they contain would only be a drop in the bucket, not even enough for one day in Kathmandu. Nevertheless, it would make sense for the operators to already at least collect all the emptied bottles and ensure that they are transported to Kathmandu as quickly as possible. Every bottle can save lives.

The Spaniard Alex Txikon, who wanted to climb Everest without bottled oxygen, ended his expedition today – “out of a sense of responsibility due to pandemic advance,” as the 39-year-old let it be known on Twitter.

Steeper infection curve than in India

Hospitals across the country lack beds and oxygen, and COVID patients are being turned away at many hospital doors. The national companies that supply oxygen to hospitals say they have run out of cylinders. Nepalese police say they have collected about 2,800 bottles from companies and factories since Saturday evening local time to provide to hospitals.

In Nepal, authorities registered another record high of 9,127 new COVID-19 cases within 24 hours. Thus, since the outbreak of the pandemic more than a year ago, more than 400,000 Nepalese have contracted the coronavirus, and about 3,850 people have died from COVID-19. Because of the low testing capacities, a high number of unreported cases must be assumed. In relation to the population numbers, the infection curve in the Himalayan state is now rising even faster than in neighboring India, from where the explosive spread of the coronavirus had spilled over.

Dhaulagiri: Many turn back

On Dhaulagiri Northwest Ridge

Meanwhile, on the normal route on the eight-thousander Dhaulagiri in western Nepal, many climbers have abandoned their summit attempts – because of too high avalanche danger and due to the corona outbreak among the expedition teams.

The Slovak Peter Hamor and the two Romanians Horia Colibasanu and Marius Gane are still on the way. Yesterday, they reported from the still unclimbed Dhaulagiri Northwest Ridge from an altitude of 6,800 meters and said that there was deep snow on their new route. During the night, their tent was hit by an avalanche. They used a knife to cut a hole in the tent to free themselves. The trio is now returning to base camp.

Update 03:45 pm : Six of the twelve Sherpas who had fixed the ropes up to the summit of Mount Everest on Friday, now, three days later, also secured the route up to the highest point of the neighboring Lhotse at 8,516 meters, thus ensuring the first summit success of the season on this eight-thousander too.