Climbers Stranded in Kathmandu, Chinese Approach Everest North Side

8000ers COVID-19 Everest
Horia Colibasanu and friends head to their hotel in Kathmandu, on a bus arranged by Nepal's Tourism Board. Photo: Horia Colibasanu

Long ago, it seems, but really only about a month, Horia Colibasanu of Romania and Peter Hamor and Michal Sabovčík of Slovakia traveled to Nepal to open a new route on Dhaulagiri. The COVID-19 lockdown has plunged the trio into a different kind of adventure, in which the goal is not to reach a summit, but to get home.

According to the latest update by Colibasanu, the story is far from approaching its end.

Last week, they were in Namche Bazaar, when the army blocked the paths up the Khumbu Valley. They had no wish either to move to Lukla — by then, crowded with 200 other stranded tourists. Since trekkers rarely overnight in Lukla, unless their flights to KTM are cancelled, the town has few accommodations compared to Phakding and Namche Bazaar.

The climbers were happy to have a small crag at hand and a good 300 vertical meters to train on without leaving the place. While locals downtown were nice as ever, they noticed some funny stares from some villagers on the outskirts of town. “No wonder,” Colibasanu said. “Even if the coronavirus has barely struck Nepal yet, the disease would be disastrous in a country with a barely existent health system.”

Notice for foreigners stranded in Nepal, issued by Nepal Tourism Board

EU countries were trying to coordinate the repatriation of their nationals, and the trio finally moved down to Lukla and managed to get a plane to a locked-down Kathmandu yesterday. They are currently at a hotel but they hope to rent an apartment if they remain stranded long-term. They are spending their quarantined time training with squats and crunches in the hotel’s lobby and climbing up and down the stairs.

Meanwhile, their coveted goal, Dhaulagiri, waits deserted, while spring Rododendrons are in full blossom at nearby Gorepani.

Dhaulagiri and rhododendrons, from a previous spring. Photo: Gorakh Bista

Meanwhile, in Tibet, the Chinese team outfitted by Yarla Shampo Trek might reach Advanced Base Camp today, according to Stefan Nester’s Mountain Adventure blog. The 26 climbers, including six women, will then start up the mountain, which features more snow than in previous seasons. The Chinese will be the only ones on Everest this spring, after Nepal’s government ignored Kami Rita Sherpa’s request to organize a clean-up expedition on the South Col route. This would have improved the state of the mountain and provided jobs for Sherpa climbers and BC staff.

All other would-be Himalayan climbers from around the world continue to endure self-isolation, to slow down the pandemic. While social media and WhatsApp groups fill up with videos of terminally bored climbers clambering on kitchen furniture and mounting stairs with laundry baskets in full high-altitude gear, some are going further and changing hobbies. Yesterday, Kilian Jornet posted a video on his sponsor’s site stating that he was quitting trail running and devoting himself instead to family and…”Salomon fishing”. Not a bad April Fool’s gag.

About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to "ExplorersWeb BC" in 2018 and. Feeling right at home since then!

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6 Comments on "Climbers Stranded in Kathmandu, Chinese Approach Everest North Side"

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Damien François
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Sorry, but there’s plenty of lodges in Lukla…
Padkin = Phakding?
And, yes, it is ridiculous that the Nepalese government would not have a cleaning expeditions. What did we expect from them, anyway…

Sarah j
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The dead climbers’ insurance companies should pay for the cost of bringing down the bodies, thus enabling the government to pay the sherpas.

Grant
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Bodies?
The biggest problem is the stinking trash, not bodies. If you don’t want to appear stupid then only comment on issues you are knowledgeable about.

Grant
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I just returned two days ago from an aborted trek and climb in the khumbu region. This article is spot on in all aspects, including the limited number of Lukla hotels now that most have been shuttered.

Griselda
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If they wanted to climb Dhaulagiri why trekking in Khumbu Region?

Samore Herbstein
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This group of climbers is selfish and irresponsible. This situation is similar to that in South Africa where several groups of European tourists, mainly German, refused to cooperate with the authorities despite some in their number displaying Covid 19 symptoms.