China Closes North Side of Everest, and More on Coronavirus

Barely two weeks before the spring Himalayan season begins, Nepal has increased restrictions to visas granted at Kathmandu airport. Travelers from Germany, France and Spain now face the same restrictions as those from China, Japan, South Korea, Iran and Italy.

Citizens from those countries can still enter Nepal, but they must obtain their visas in advance through Nepal’s embassies or consulates back home. Their application must include a certificate signed by a doctor not more than seven days before their arrival, stating that the applicant is in good health.

Nepal’s official notice.


Thaneswar Guragai, manager of Seven Summit Treks, says that climbers from those countries should have no problem getting into Nepal — that they should simply consider the new requirements one more step on their to-do list.

However, the uncertainty for climbers comes not only from Nepal but also the fast-changing situations back home. As the virus spreads, most countries are increasing restrictions. What today is merely a recommendation against non-essential travel may tomorrow become canceled flights or quarantines for those who have, according to their passports, recently visited a risky area.

After summiting six 8,000m peaks in one year and two days, Sergi Mingote is returning for the rest. Photo: Sergi Mingote


While tourists rethink their vacations, most high-altitude climbers are reluctant to abandon their plans. Spain’s Sergi Mingote, for example, is currently doing his paperwork. “Hopefully, I’ll get the visa in time to fly to Nepal on March 28,” he told ExplorersWeb. As we’ve previously reported, Mingote plans to summit all 14 8,000’ers without supplementary oxygen in 1,000 days. He has already climbed seven. This spring, he’ll go for Annapurna and Makalu.

No restrictions on movement have been issued in Spain yet, although the government is imposing new measures daily, as cases increase. Whether Spain eventually copies Italy’s drastic approach, with the whole country locked down since Tuesday, remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, some well-known climbers have already postponed their spring plans. Cala Cimenti has put off his Malaku Trilogy until fall, and Marco Confortola, who lives in the heavily affected region of Lombardia, has called on all climbers to “respect the rules”, to avoid spreading the disease. “Let’s demonstrate the same discipline that we apply to all our challenges,” he said in a video.

Outfitters are confident that the season will proceed without huge numbers of cancellations. Seven Summits Treks has 18 people confirmed for Annapurna and at least 15 for either Makalu or Dhaulagiri. “We’ve had no cancellations so far, although we were going to outfit some big expeditions from China…that may end up postponing,” Thaneswar Guragai said.

In Everest’s Khumbu Icefall, during a winter attempt some weeks ago. Photo: Seven Summits Trek


In Europe, where the disease is spreading alarmingly, Innsbruck’s Lukas Furtenbach reports no cancellations, “but our clients are all from Europe and the U.S., no Asians,” he told ExplorersWeb. “We have adapted our medical equipment to the current situation, our own expedition team doctor is ready and we have logistics completed for both sides of the mountain.”

Lukas Furtenbach, guiding recently on Aconcagua. Photo: Furtenbach Adventures


Furtenbach suggests that Everest, at least, will be less crowded than in previous years — a minor blessing. SST’s manager is not so sure. “Cancellation of large teams from China and other affected countries may result in fewer numbers, but if the north side of Everest remains closed, we could have a sudden flow of climbers swapping sides and increasing the numbers on the South Col route.”

Some operators have cancelled their expeditions on the Chinese side of Everest — a prescient move, as it turns out, because Chinese authorities did, in fact, close the mountain today, according to Everest blogger Alan Arnette.

Finally, unrelated to coronavirus, it seems that Nepal has declined to get too picky with further requirements on Everest. The new set of safety requirements, announced after last spring’s overcrowding led to a dramatic increase of casualties, has been shelved. Neither previous experience or a limit on the number of permits will be reinforced this spring. Coronavirus, however, may limit those crowds anyway.

No summit day crowds this year? Photo: Furtenbach Adventures