Everest Back to New Normal: Deserted

The Chinese surveyors who summited Everest last Wednesday made it safely back to Base Camp one day later. Everyone else also promptly made it down: the Tibetan mountain guides who opened the route to the top, a commercial group following the surveyors and the porters assisting them all.

The triumphant return of the surveyors, wearing khata scarves around their necks. Photo: Xinhua


In this strange season, the Chinese team used their opportunity as the only ones on the mountain to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first successful climb of the north side by a Chinese team. The surveyors, tasked to remeasure Everest, spent about two and a half hours on the summit, planting a survey marker and a Global Navigation Satellite System antenna.

Others measured snow depth and gravity, among other observations, from six points below the summit. The data will go through comprehensive calculations and verifications before being released — a process expected to take at least two or three months.

Installing an antenna on the roof of the world. Photo: Xinhua


Now the mountain is back to its new normal state, that is, silent and lonely.

As coronavirus cases lessen across western Europe and Canada, climbers cautiously consider their Himalayan options after the monsoon rains. Meanwhile, the Himalayan kingdoms themselves are still far from controlling the spread of the disease. Nepal had 1,811 COVID-19 cases as of June 1, with its highest daily spread rate so far — 189 new cases in the last 24 hours. After keeping numbers low for months, the number of cases has swelled over the last few days.

The situation is more pressing in Pakistan. Yesterday, a worrying 3,039 new cases were registered. To make things worse, Pakistan has barely a couple of weeks before the start of the Karakorum climbing season.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Imran Khan is ready to relax lockdown measures  and will lift bans on foreign tourism, particularly for those visitors heading to Gilgit-Baltistan, the main destination for seasonal trekkers and climbers and the source of income for local communities. “Pakistanis must learn how to live with the coronavirus, as a lockdown is not a treatment for the disease,” Khan said.

Everest returns to its lonely new normal. Photo: Xinhua