Everest: Sherpas Already Near the Summit

8000ers COVID-19 Everest
Sherpa climbers near the summit of Everest
"Kami Rita and the Everest Fixers" are one good weather day away from the summit. Photo: Kami Rita Sherpa

Everyone in Everest Base Camp keeps quiet about the COVID outbreak, while high above, the Sherpa rope-fixing team is just one good day from the summit.

Kami Rita and the Everest Fixers sounds like a rock band. They are certainly rocking on Everest right now. With lead man Kami Rita Sherpa, these first-class Sherpa climbers are the only ones doing Everest without ropes. That’s because they are the guys setting the ropes. A difficult job, especially this very dry year.

Remarkably, it took them two attempts to reach the South Col because of technical difficulties. Also, according to Everest guide Tim Mosedale, they had to dodge a great many rocks falling their way.  A light snowfall earlier this week has improved that, “gluing everything back together again,” as Mosedale put it.
The Sherpas have already reached 8,000m and are just one good day from the summit. A milestone for Kami Rita, in particular: This is his record 25th time atop Everest.
Mosedale also mentions the unusually long route through the Khumbu Icefall. “It took me a tad under six hours to get from EBC to C1 compared to 3hrs 15min in 2019,” he said. “The Western Cwm was a fairly standard 3hrs 20min, so [combining] the two for a second rotation (EBC to C2) could easily amount to 12 to 15 hours for those who are not as acclimatized/fit/tenacious. It’s going to be brutal on a really busy day.”
The climbing route up Everest, seen from a lower camp

The route up Everest from Camp 2, including “lower” Camp 3. Photo: Paul Pottinger

Despite snow yesterday in Base Camp, a significant number of climbers have decided to spend several days in Camp 2. This includes Colin O’Brady, who set off with Dawa Sherpa today for Camp 2, bypassing the usual night in Camp 1. He won’t return to BC before next week.

Money talks

Meanwhile, Nepal authorities continue to deny/avoid discussing the COVID outbreak. The Department of Tourism continues granting Everest permits: From an already record 394 on April 27, it rose to 408 on April 28. At $11,000 per permit, Nepal has already earned close to $4.5 million from those alone.

At the same time, authorities have imposed a two-week lockdown in Kathmandu, Pokhara, and other areas with high contagion rates. They also reestablished a 10-day quarantine for everyone entering the country.

As usual, confusion surrounds certain of the new regulations. Since road transport is banned for the next two weeks, except for essential services, climbers and trekkers returning from the mountains may have trouble returning to Kathmandu. The Kathmandu Post published some useful information about this earlier today.

Kathmandu sources also report that the Department of Tourism refuses to take calls from the media and insists that tourism officials, expedition operators, Base Camp staff, and climbers (except those already infected) hide the truth.

Everest Base Camp at night

Everest Base Camp. Photo: Pascal Denoel

Nepal’s worst-kept secret

This half-secrecy — word does get out — is not only useless, it’s harmful. Travelers about to leave for Nepal aren’t sure what to do. Those in Base Camp behave as if nothing has happened, but they face increasing criticism on social media, for selfishness, and for ignoring safety measures. Some have even accused climbers of bringing the virus into the country.

Yet most Everest hopefuls felt safe, thanks to their double negative PCR test. Some may be vaccinated, but in a number of countries, including all those in the European Union, vaccines are not available privately but only through strict protocols. With the virus already established in Base Camp, teams are now trying to avoid contact beyond their social bubbles. But the harm is already done.

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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 ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
5 months ago

It is entirely possible that climbers brought Covid into Nepal–there is a very large team from India. But Nepal was going to get hit in any case, because there is so much travel across the India/Nepal border by locals. Here is one interesting data point, reported by Fortune Magazine : “In Hong Kong, authorities implemented a two-week ban on all flights from India on April 18 after authorities detected that over one-third, or 52, of all passengers on an April 3 flight from New Delhi tested positive for COVID-19. All of the travelers submitted negative tests within 72 hours of… Read more »

Damien François
Damien François
5 months ago

“Everyone in Everest Base Camp keeps quiet about the COVID outbreak”.
The climbers are there to scale the world’s tallest peak and not participate in panic-mongering.

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Climber@EBC
Climber@EBC
5 months ago

The climbers are there to participate in the circus, take photos for social media, pretend to inspire & motivate people and talk themselves up and not participate in panic-mongering.

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Dave
Dave
5 months ago

The climbers will still take up a hospital bed if something bad happens and they have to get evacuated. I can see why, when hospital beds are needed for Covid patients, people would be rather miffed that they were being taken up by Western climbers after getting hurt/ill while on a jolly.

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jmaf
jmaf
5 months ago
Reply to  Dave

Young, fit, healthy climbers won’t be taking up any hospital beds for Covid. We know enough to know that’s not how this virus works so stop the panic mongering. Viruses have been shared and spread through base camps for as long as people have been climbing mountains. Some will get sick enough to have to go down, others will be asymptomatic or have such mild symptoms that they will go up. Covid won’t be killing anyone on Everest. Lack of experience, weather, and exposure due to overcrowding will as always be the main risks.

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MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
5 months ago
Reply to  jmaf

They already have take up hospital beds.See Erlend Ness’ facebook posts.

Since then the government has threatened operators and climbers (with no future permits) if they post anything about Covid.

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MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
5 months ago
Reply to  jmaf

Get your facts straight. Plenty of the climbers are over 49 and so not “young”. And they will suffer the effects of both Covid and altitude. They are actually participating in an unapproved trial of the dual effects of altitude and Covid, including newer variants of Covid that are not well understood. Also: you seem to think all viruses are the same. But viruses can be ho-hum no problem, or they can be deadly. This one is deadly and unpredictable. Oh, and a young, fit climber has already taken up a hospital bed and required oxygen. See Erlend Ness’ facebook… Read more »

Barbie
5 months ago
Reply to  MuddyBoots

If people don’t get approved for future permits, id consider that a win. I find it incredibly irritating that so many climbers keep going back after they’ve successfully summited and they aren’t leading any expeditions. They get all condescending about the crowds and bitch about all these first time climbers but I’m sure plenty of them are just as capable and I’d rather more people get their shot at their dream than give a 4th or 5th shot to someone who wants to be the first person to summit upside down and backwards. One Everest documentary really got it right… Read more »

Susan Nielsen
Susan Nielsen
4 months ago
Reply to  Barbie

And too bad the Nepali government is so greedy that money is more important to them than the sacredness that this region is to the the indigenous people of Nepal. It’s been turned into a garbage dump and contaminated with low frequencies from people who are only ego driven and lack respect for for the Spirit of the Mountains. Namaste!

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Dave
Dave
5 months ago
Reply to  jmaf

Yes, because covid is the only thing on Everest which can put you in hospital… people have been evacuated to hospitals already.

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Tyler
Tyler
5 months ago

Clean up the moutain and leave it alone in peace. Climbing is now a charade. Ropes ladders helicopters…what a mockery.

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Barbie
5 months ago
Reply to  Tyler

Its not even the ropes for me. Its how incapable so many of these people are if they dont have their emotional support sherpa holding their hands the entire time. Ive seen plenty of climbers who won’t climb without them even for a stretch that is straightforward and should be completely doable if they were actually the world class climbers that they pretend to be.

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Last edited 5 months ago by Barbie
Dave
Dave
5 months ago

Every hospital bed taken up by a western climber, through covid, injury or another illness, is a bed that cannot be used for someone else at a time they are in short supply. Climbers know the risks posed to themselves and accept them, but it feels like at this point they are adding to the risk posed to the wider public.

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barbara
barbara
5 months ago

seems that there are more objective dangers – doubled and pethaps more difficult (?) path in kumbhu icefall, rockfalls – will go hand in hand with the absolutely irresponsibel behaviour in bc – one can only hope that it will not become a “breathtaking” toll this season.

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Barbie
5 months ago
Reply to  barbara

It will though. I feel a deep sense of melancholy knowing that the loss of life this year will once again be making headlines. Sherpas with families that depend on them will be a part of that. Its deplorable how little western climbers consider how their selfish actions affect others who are doing nothing but giving endlessly and unconditionally .

I hope the hungry mountain only takes those who don’t respect her.

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Anya
Anya
5 months ago

Again and again it wont be the fact that there is a virus that has the potential to kill (we all know this and probably know someone who has had this bstard virus) it will be the idiotic , spoilt rich kids, “bored” rich people who take to Everest without a second thought that their inexperience will and has been the cause of many an accident/death, it has to stop, it is wrong and the Nepalese govt. Need to stop thinking money, think lives , for those who are climbing please stay safe.

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Lou
Lou
5 months ago

Angela…your short,sweet, interesting,and informative reports are very appreciated. It appears that the mighty dollar appears to be more important than people’s lives.

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Tina
Tina
5 months ago

I was watching a documentary where the sherpas only make 10-15 $ a day. That is disgraceful. They deserve a hell of a lot more than that to haul these people gear. If I was them I wouldn’t do it until I got paid a hell of a lot better. Maybe 10-15 $ an hour. Those mountaineers can afford it if they can afford to go there. Plus tip them good. I would think someone like Nims Purja would do something to help them make better money.

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Tal
Tal
5 months ago

Interesting article.

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Thrane
Thrane
5 months ago

Because it’s there…and you have the money to attempt to climb (?) it!

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R D
R D
5 months ago

We were 11 Trekkers who did Chola Pass and Everest Base camp this April 2021. Out of 11 of us 9 of us contracted Covid 19 probably at Gorakshep (even though all of us had done PCR test twice before starting the Trek). While trekking back to Lukla we were extremely fatigued with bad cough (which at that time we attributed to the infamous Khumbu cough). Nepal Govt. should be more strict with PCR testing and also make locals take the test.

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Mary
4 months ago

I pray in the name of Jesus you will protect and keep safe all who are on the mountainMay the Lord bless you all.

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Linda A. Cook
Linda A. Cook
4 months ago

I asked Santa to send you a case of good Scotch Kami😁 25 times on top Mt. Everest🗻! YOU ROCK❄️💙💙💙💙💙💙💙💙💙💙💙💙💙💙

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