China Opens To Tourism But Not Yet to Climbing; Harila on Manaslu

For weeks, we’ve been uncertain whether Everest North Side, Cho Oyu, and Shishapangma would open this spring to foreigners.

Well, starting today, China has finally started issuing visas to foreign tourists. That is great news for travel in general. It’s also considered the first step before the China-Tibet Mountaineering Association again gives climbing permits to non-Chinese climbers. But it will not happen this spring.

“It’s confirmed that there will be no Everest permits to foreigners in China this spring,” Lukas Furtenbach said. So the outfitter’s two Everest teams will climb on the Nepal side instead. Alpenglow already canceled its Everest North Side expedition weeks ago and offered clients a Makalu climb in its place.

pink paper with Chinese announcement of tourism visas open again

Chinese authorities announced that tourist visas for foreigners are available beginning March 15. Photo: Alfonso Parra



A couple of climbers are hoping to snag special permits to climb Cho Oyu and Shishapangma in China, including Kristin Harila. She intended to climb the two Tibetan peaks twice this spring, including at least once without supplemental oxygen.

Harila again on Manaslu

Harila’s 2022 plan was to beat Nirmal Purja’s record for climbing all 14 8,000m peaks. Originally, that was about six months, but her inability to get into China last fall for Cho Oyu and Shishapangma stopped that quest at 12. But as pointed out last year, Purja only reached the true summits of Dhaulagiri and Manaslu in 2021. Thus, his actual time for all 14 was two years rather than six months, giving Harila a sizeable reprieve.

Now in 2023, Harila intends to summit Cho Oyu and Shishapangma twice each, in order to start a new record: the fastest double 14×8,000m.

One climber has already done the double: Sanu Sherpa. He completed his second round of the 14 summits on Manaslu last fall. Sanu Sherpa, a high-altitude guide, reached most summits while fixing ropes or leading clients.

Currently, Harila has headed to Manaslu to start her second round of the world’s 14 highest peaks. This time, the Norwegian athlete intends to go without supplementary O2.

A no-O2 14×8,000m speed record?

An article in Everest Chronicle states Harila really intends to climb all her secondary round of peaks without bottled O2. In recent interviews though, she has admitted that she will need very good weather to do so. It is highly unlikely to find ideal conditions on all 14 peaks so quickly, especially on the highest ones. Just one sip of bottled gas at any time would invalidate the record.

Kristin and Andriana pose with soft drinks in their hands and feather jackets, looking cold in a sunny but windy-looking base camp.

Adriana Brownlee (left) and Kristin Harila at Cho Oyu base camp in Nepal this winter. Photo: Kristin Harila


Harila will climb with Adriana Brownlee of the UK, and their guide will be Gelje Sherpa. Gelye will also guide for Seven Summit Treks on Annapurna and Dhaulagiri this season. The three already attempted Cho Oyu from Nepal in January. Cho Oyu straddles the border with China, although it is much harder from the Nepal side, with few ascents and no commercial successes. Shishapangma, notably, is the only 8,000’er totally within China.

As for climbing the 14 without oxygen so quickly, Gelje told the Everest Chronicle: “It is possible, which is why we are trying it.”

For Harila to start her second round on Manaslu is a little puzzling. Currently, no one else is expected on the mountain. The three of them would have to fix ropes, carry loads, and break trail by themselves.

On the other hand, Manaslu has straightforward terrain for acclimatizing, at least until Camp 1 at 5,500m. And some older ropes may still be usable: Alex Txikon and Sherpas from Seven Summit Treks were there just two months ago.

Annapurna progress halted by snow

Harila’s alternative to Manaslu would logically have been Annapurna. Here, the Sherpa team led by Mingma Tenzi Sherpa of Elite Exped had fixed ropes almost to Camp 3.  A storm forced them back down today — check the video below. Clients are currently in Camp 2. They are supposed to stay there to acclimatize for one more day.

Meanwhile, many climbers from other teams, who have been acclimatizing in different parts of the Himalaya, are expected to arrive at Base Camp today. Before the snowfall, the mountain had looked quite dry.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.