Everest: The Real News

8000ers COVID-19 Everest
A helicopter evacuates more climbers from Everest Base Camp. Photo: SummitClimb

Back in Base Camp, recent Everest climbers are finally posting their summit pictures — carefully cropping out anyone from other teams, as per Nepal’s oddball new rule. Also conspicuous by its absence is any view of the route itself, where dozens of climbers probably formed a line down the Hillary Step.

Today, about 50 climbers summited Everest, according to Nepali media. With yesterday’s nearly 100, this marks a busy start to the week. But the waves of summiters won’t last: The good weather might hold through tomorrow, but a westerly storm front has entered Nepal. Once settled in, it will envelop the mountains until May 20. Those who failed to surf this wave will have to wait at least a week.

Bahrain Royal Guard on the summit. Photo: Bahrain to Everest

Lower down, helicopters flit regularly up and down the valley, bringing oxygen canisters and removing COVID victims. About 19 people flew out yesterday, nine others two days ago.

In this case, ExWeb’s sources have chosen to remain anonymous, since everyone is under pressure to stay silent if they want climbing permits in the future. But voices are starting to speak, still in whispers, in Base Camp, in Kathmandu, and along the Khumbu Valley about an unsustainable situation.

No one is officially infected

Doctors at Everest Base Camp told The Nepali Times that so far, helicopters have evacuated about 30 people “with suspected Covid-19 symptoms.” That number is conservative, of course, and those evacuated are “suspects” because doctors are not permitted to run COVID tests on site. Everyone showing symptoms of COVID must go to the foreigners’ hospital in Kathmandu for tests and a final diagnosis. There too, the hospital doctors remain silent. So apart from the word of a couple of afflicted climbers, no one is officially infected.

After some quiet days which prompted hope that the rash of cases was tapering off, they have picked up again. One climber remarks that some teams strictly follow safety protocols, while others simply don’t care. They are reckless both in Base Camp and in their stays downvalley. As customary, several teams have retreated to Namche Bazaar, Pheriche, and other villages for some rest at lower altitudes before the final summit push. The consequences of their interactions in stores and lodges where COVID is spreading remain to be seen.

Nirmal Purja’s Elite team fraternizes with Jon Kedrowski and pop star Mike Posner. Hopefully, COVID was not in the picture. Photo: Nirmal Purja

The era of the aero-taxi

Helicopters have quickly become a big profit centre in the Everest business. They have replaced porters and yaks, they resupply up to Camp 2, they rescue, they airlift the sick, and they serve as aero-taxis for trips up and down the Khumbu or between Kathmandu and Base Camp. It is likely that they too spread the virus.

Part or all of the Bahraini team has already returned to Kathmandu. We don’t know whether they reached Base Camp under their own steam or whether they grabbed an aero-taxi from Camp 2. An Everest climb is only complete if the climber descends entirely down to Base Camp.

In Kathmandu, climbers go to the CIEWC Hospital, a private centre for foreigners. Unlike virtually all public hospitals in Nepal, they have enough beds, medical supplies, and oxygen.

At least, Nepal’s government has apparently reached an agreement to receive all the empty oxygen bottles from Base Camp, to refill and use at local hospitals.

0

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!

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
22 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Joe
Joe
1 month ago

On the other hand, to date no one has died summiting or on the return to BC!

0
Peo
Peo
30 days ago
Reply to  Joe

Sadly this is not true

0
Uwe Vossler
Uwe Vossler
30 days ago
Reply to  Joe

Leider sind ein Amerikaner und ein Schweizer ums Leben gekommen.

0
Joe
Joe
30 days ago
Reply to  Joe

Since the time of writing this comment, indeed two died on the descent, as noted by replies. Let’s hope that’s it.

0
Stroke my Ego
Stroke my Ego
1 month ago

This is actually great news – there have been no deaths reported yet so I hope it stays that way. Putting all the social-media/tourist BS aside, congrats to all those who summitted during these troubled times. Ofcourse, not every one of us is fortunate or foolish enough to venture into Nepal during these times but for those that did, hope your ego has peaked and I hope you now take actions to help the Nepalese people suffering with covid.

+1
Climber
Climber
30 days ago
Reply to  Stroke my Ego

2 died

0
Stephan Miller
Stephan Miller
1 month ago

I have been to Nepal over 10 times. I have to say that the people are wonderful but it is one of the most corrupt, chaotic and f-up countries that I have visited. One Nepali said to me that Nepal is a IV world country beyond redemption. The survival of the fittest is the norm and the COVID crisis has a serious potential of blowing the country apart. The government, local authorities, sherpas, tour operators, hotel owners, etc etc are mostly corrupt, greedy and can’t see beyond the next dollar bill. What we see is a chain of participants and… Read more »

Don Paul
Don Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephan Miller

I have a bad impression of the Nepali government too. Now I’m reminded of the earthquake a few years ago, when all the people were stranded on Everest. At the borders people were trying to bring in medicine and other aid and complaining about having to pay huge bribes to the customs officials to get supplies across. Maybe the harshness of their situation is why the Mt Everest scene is so brutal and abhorrant to most climbers. At least the tourists have their own hospital and plenty of helicopters. Stefi Troquet is doing hospital selfies for now, had a 60%… Read more »

Tara
Tara
30 days ago
Reply to  Don Paul

With 60% saturation you are dead. At 80% your organs, especially brain cannot function normally any more and suffer ireversible damage in short time. She probably had O2 level 60 mmHg, which is considered low, too, and may require supplementation. Selfies in such situation? No comment…

0
MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
29 days ago
Reply to  Tara

Not exactly true. https://medschool.duke.edu/about-us/news-and-communications/med-school-blog/xtreme-everest-researchers Decision-making and thought processes are impaired by altitude, but not clear that the effect is permanent; i don’t think there have been any long-term studies of noO2 climbers to evaluate this. Since several no O2 climbers have written excellent books and are powerful speakers, either they started as off-the-charts intelligent, or there wasn’t much long-term damage. And one of the paradoxes of Covid that stumped doctors was that Covid patients with O2 sat in the 60s were talking on their cell phones and acting fairly normal. It’s not a good thing, but there is no clear… Read more »

Tara
Tara
29 days ago
Reply to  MuddyBoots

Thanks for a very interesting article! I didn’t know that saturation levels that are alarming in lower altitudes, are not so higher up.

0
In Doubt
In Doubt
30 days ago
Reply to  Stephan Miller

Nepal will soon be ruled by the clowns from CCP (China). Wait and see.

0
Sid
Sid
30 days ago
Reply to  In Doubt

Better than to be ruled by the white clowns.

0
Leon
Leon
30 days ago
Reply to  Sid

Sid, are you insinuating that Nepalis are incapable to manage their own country? Is their only choice a form of colonialism or occupation?

0
Sid
Sid
30 days ago
Reply to  Stephan Miller

“The survival of the fittest is the norm and the COVID crisis has a serious potential of blowing the country apart. The government, local authorities, tour operators, hotel owners, etc etc are mostly corrupt, greedy and can’t see beyond the next dollar bill.They all know what’s going on and how the system is rigged. They play the game because it pays. The have no remorse or feel sorry for those left in the wake. COVID should be a wakeup call for the entire nation. What I am referring to above is only the tourist industry related corruption. Add to that… Read more »

Leon
Leon
30 days ago
Reply to  Sid

Sid, you need to stop seeing things as Black or White – that was George W Bush’s specialty. Are you like him?

0
fdryer
fdryer
29 days ago
Reply to  Stephan Miller

Perhaps covid-19 may be mother nature’s Darwin of taking its toll on anyone ignoring masks and social distancing until vaccines inoculate the majority. A simple germ capable of indiscriminately wiping out man may be leveler to the Everest community.

0
Last edited 29 days ago by fdryer
Bruce
30 days ago

As bad as the corruption is in Nepal it’s 100 times better than China.

0
Young
Young
30 days ago

It may not require a considerable courage to say Nepalese government is full of corruption, but I don’t see from anywhere a clue based on which this particular news report can become so speculative.

0
Frederick
Frederick
30 days ago

if you aero-taxi from camp two is that counted as completing the climb? or do you return to camp two? Though I understand that minimising time spent at B.C is important this year.

0
Leslie Marchessault
Leslie Marchessault
30 days ago

Everest already over crowded. Looks like a pig pen. Best close it down have climbers pick up all the junk,left on the mountain.

+1
×