Everest Climbers Push for Summit

The Bahraini team set off from Camp 4 barely two hours after sunset toward the summit of Everest. Joining them is 19-year-old Shehroze Kashif of Pakistan. Sherpas finished fixing the route on Friday, and good weather should continue for at least two more days.

Other teams hoping for an early summit are positioning themselves. Guides Kenton Cool and Jon Gupta, with Rebecca Ferry, are in Camp 3, Madison Mountaineering reports.

Garrett Madison and his clients, as well as other big commercial outfitters, including Nirmal Purja’s Elite Exped, have gone down to Namche Bazaar to rest in the thicker air before their final push. This common and normally sensible tactic is risky this year, as COVID spreads throughout the Khumbu.

The COVID/Summit dilemma

Events on Dhaulagiri have shown that the contagion rates are extremely high among climbers, Sherpas, and base camp staff. Clearly, the PCR tests that foreign visitors took in Kathmandu have been no defense. The local workers coming from their villages, through the lodges, and along trekking routes underwent no COVID control.

Local outfitters are trying to cope, but their options are limited. Helicopters have become the only practical way to return to Kathmandu. However, the helicopters are now busy evacuating sick people, putting the pilots themselves at risk of getting sick. Alex Txikon has canceled his own no-O2 climb because “the health situation is getting worse,” he said.

Climbers mount an upper section of the Khumbu Icefall. Photo: Kami Rita Sherpa


Others, however, are determined to ignore COVID and the potential problems they’ll later face exiting the country. They remain committed to their summit goal. For them, the first summits should come tomorrow and Wednesday.

A second wave begins later this week if the weather holds. Mingma G will likely be the first no-O2 climber to summit. He is already on the way and should reach the top within the next 24 to 48 hours.

The threat of crowds and long queues on the upper sections remains. Despite the high numbers who reached the mountain — a record 408 permits — some have changed their minds or fallen sick. But the continuing secrecy around COVID cases on Everest among officials, outfitters, and climbers told to hold their tongues makes it impossible to estimate how many will actually try to summit.