Everest and Dhaulagiri Dilemma: Get Up or Get Out?

Teams at Everest and Dhaulagiri are currently focused on their summit bids, but afterward, they may face an even bigger challenge getting home.

As usual, a fleet of helicopters are ready to transfer them to Kathmandu: private heli operators are still allowed to fly “rescue missions”, and the Pokhara, Lukla, Surkhet and Nepalgunj airports remain open. Getting out of Nepal, however, won’t be so easy.

Trekking groups are also facing a dire situation, as exemplified by one Spanish group currently in the Khumbu Valley. “We aborted our climb to Imja Tse [Island Peak] when two members of our group who planned to head home early tested positive in a PCR test before heading to the airport,” Ramón Ladra told ExplorersWeb yesterday from Tengboche.

“They lost their flights and are in quarantine. Now half of our group of 25 is showing symptoms of something that might be COVID.” (Full disclosure: Ladra is a friend of mine.)

The group was told that a flight from Lukla back to Kathmandu is not an option. “We will try to get back by road,” he said.

Trekkers in the Khumbu Valley. Photo: Ramón Ladra


Reaching Kathmandu will take at least one more day of trekking and a long drive on bumpy roads — assuming that they can find transportation since mobility is also restricted.

“The authorities closed the airport until May 15, and our flight out is on the 17th, so we’re crossing our fingers and hoping they won’t cancel it,” Ladra said. “Our main concern is for those feeling sick. If they test positive, they’ll lose their flights and have to quarantine.”

The situation was radically different when the group arrived in Nepal two weeks ago. “We were asked to show our certificate of a negative PCR that we had taken just before flying, and that was all,” he said. No second PCR and no quarantine, although only a few in the group had received their vaccinations.

Government to rescue tourists

Today, the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has formed a Disaster Management and Communication Cell, to coordinate and rescue the tourists stranded in different parts of the country after the travel restrictions were imposed,” The Kathmandu Post reported.

Yesterday, “11 foreigners, including five policemen from Langtang, four Ukrainians from Pokhara, and two Americans from Lukla have been rescued and brought to Kathmandu,” they announced.

There is no word yet about those currently on Everest and Dhaulagiri, who don’t plan to leave before summiting.

Once the tourists are in Kathmandu, the NTB promises that they will charter flights to the tourists’ home countries. But how timely will these charters be? Last year, during the first lockdown, foreign climbers such as Horia Colibasanu had to wait in Kathmandu for weeks.

The new rescue “Cell” is also in charge of controlling quarantines on Indian citizens coming into Nepal. Nepal has closed its borders to virtually the entire world but has surprisingly allowed a Nepal-India bubble. The two countries share a 1,750km border and three flights per week continue between Kathmandu and Delhi.

Everest climbers insist that everything is under control in Base Camp. COVID-free groups have been quick to point out their status. Still, climbers are speeding up their plans. In the meantime, public hospitals in some areas have stopped accepting COVID patients because of lack of oxygen.