Everest 2021: Where Things Stand Now

Although the winter season continues on Manaslu, spring is just around the corner, and Nepal is already preparing to relaunch 8,000m climbing. Local and foreign operators are signing up clients and arranging permits. And already, the first tents have been pitched at Everest Base Camp.

EBC sits on the huge (and very active) Khumbu Glacier. It is a very irregular surface topped with loose scree and where a stream may run uncomfortably through your tent when the afternoon sun melts the ice. Teams seek out the flatter spots, and since the number of expeditions has grown, the commercial operators send scouts well in advance to claim the best spots, often fencing them with ropes.

Dawa Steven Sherpa trekked to Base Camp, pitched his tent on January 24, and spent a night enjoying some rare solitude on Everest, 65 days before beginning the scheduled climb as the head of his own agency, Asian Trekking. Furtenbach Expeditions of Austria, which has a confirmed Everest climb as well, set up their Base Camp two weeks ago. Lukas Furtenbach landed in Kathmandu yesterday.

Dawa Steven Sherpa of Asian Trekking planted his expedition tents at the foot of Everest on January 24. Photo: Dawa Steven Sherpa


Outfitters are confident that spring 2021 will mark the beginning of an economic recovery. Although China has expressed no interest in opening its borders to foreigners wanting to climb Cho Oyu, Shishapangma, or the north side of Everest, Nepal will welcome all comers.

The biggest outfitter of all, Seven Summit Treks, is “operating at full throttle,” an SST spokesperson told ExplorersWeb. “We will start on March 15 with Annapurna, and then launch teams on Dhaulagiri, Kangchenjunga, Makalu, Lhotse, and Everest.”

SST was the only company to outfit climbers in the fall of 2020. Their clients included a large Bahraini contingent to Manaslu, training for a later Everest expedition. In winter, SST sent groups to Ama Dablam and, of course, K2 — but it remains to be seen if the bitter ending affects the company’s popularity. SST’s current international reach includes 2021 clients from China, India, Middle East, Brazil, Ukraine, the EU, and many others.

Among western companies, Garrett Madison is also preparing for Everest, following up on his role as the first non-Nepali guide to launch an Everest climb last autumn.  Dan Mazur of SummitClimb will likewise field a team, Ryan Waters will be back to the mountain at the head of Mountain Professionals, as will Nirmal Purja’s Elite Himalayan company, based in London. We don’t know yet whether Purja himself will personally lead the group, as he did back in 2019.

Commercial operators such as Furtenbach Adventures are staking their territory at Everest Base Camp.


Some outfitters are waiting for clients to confirm. Still others, such as Alpenglow Expeditions, have deferred their Everest ambitions until 2022: “We don’t have confidence in Tibet opening for the spring,” Adrian Ballinger wrote some weeks ago. “And we don’t believe we can safely run an Everest climb from the Nepal side. We don’t want to risk our clients losing money for a second year by moving forward and committing funds.”

Adventure Consultants have likewise postponed Everest for another year, despite (or maybe because of) being based in New Zealand, where COVID has been so aggressively managed.

Those who do plan to go to Nepal eagerly wait for the government to relax the safety procedures required for foreigners. Cases in the country have dropped significantly, and the first vaccines have arrived.

Such measures should have been released weeks ago, but Nepal’s always hesitant government has demurred. This has prompted restaurants, hotels, and trekking agencies to protest in the streets. Mainly, they want tourists to be able to skip the quarantine period if their PCR tests done before traveling and after arriving in Nepal are negative.

After a ruinous year, Nepal tourism has recovered significantly since last fall. Graph: Nepali Times


In fact, the main problem might lie in visitors’ home countries: Europe and the U.S., in particular, are still dealing with high contagion rates and significant concerns about the virus new strains. However, most travel bans apply to those entering those countries. Outward flights still operate. In the UK, on the other hand, “it is illegal to travel abroad for holidays and other leisure purposes,” the government has decreed.

In general, operators expect some clients, although not anything close to a full load, which is a selling point. Madison Mountaineering estimates that about 200 climbers are planning to tackle Everest from the south side this spring, about half the 2019 number. The infamous Everest conga lines will be reduced or not present, and climbers will be helping the seriously injured economy of Nepal’s mountain villages.