Everest: Sherpas Already Near the Summit

Everyone in Everest Base Camp keeps quiet about the COVID outbreak, while high above, the Sherpa rope-fixing team is just one good day from the summit.

Kami Rita and the Everest Fixers sounds like a rock band. They are certainly rocking on Everest right now. With lead man Kami Rita Sherpa, these first-class Sherpa climbers are the only ones doing Everest without ropes. That’s because they are the guys setting the ropes. A difficult job, especially this very dry year.

Remarkably, it took them two attempts to reach the South Col because of technical difficulties. Also, according to Everest guide Tim Mosedale, they had to dodge a great many rocks falling their way.  A light snowfall earlier this week has improved that, “gluing everything back together again,” as Mosedale put it.
The Sherpas have already reached 8,000m and are just one good day from the summit. A milestone for Kami Rita, in particular: This is his record 25th time atop Everest.
Mosedale also mentions the unusually long route through the Khumbu Icefall. “It took me a tad under six hours to get from EBC to C1 compared to 3hrs 15min in 2019,” he said. “The Western Cwm was a fairly standard 3hrs 20min, so [combining] the two for a second rotation (EBC to C2) could easily amount to 12 to 15 hours for those who are not as acclimatized/fit/tenacious. It’s going to be brutal on a really busy day.”
The climbing route up Everest, seen from a lower camp

The route up Everest from Camp 2, including “lower” Camp 3. Photo: Paul Pottinger


Despite snow yesterday in Base Camp, a significant number of climbers have decided to spend several days in Camp 2. This includes Colin O’Brady, who set off with Dawa Sherpa today for Camp 2, bypassing the usual night in Camp 1. He won’t return to BC before next week.

Money talks

Meanwhile, Nepal authorities continue to deny/avoid discussing the COVID outbreak. The Department of Tourism continues granting Everest permits: From an already record 394 on April 27, it rose to 408 on April 28. At $11,000 per permit, Nepal has already earned close to $4.5 million from those alone.

At the same time, authorities have imposed a two-week lockdown in Kathmandu, Pokhara, and other areas with high contagion rates. They also reestablished a 10-day quarantine for everyone entering the country.

As usual, confusion surrounds certain of the new regulations. Since road transport is banned for the next two weeks, except for essential services, climbers and trekkers returning from the mountains may have trouble returning to Kathmandu. The Kathmandu Post published some useful information about this earlier today.

Kathmandu sources also report that the Department of Tourism refuses to take calls from the media and insists that tourism officials, expedition operators, Base Camp staff, and climbers (except those already infected) hide the truth.

Everest Base Camp at night

Everest Base Camp. Photo: Pascal Denoel


Nepal’s worst-kept secret

This half-secrecy — word does get out — is not only useless, it’s harmful. Travelers about to leave for Nepal aren’t sure what to do. Those in Base Camp behave as if nothing has happened, but they face increasing criticism on social media, for selfishness, and for ignoring safety measures. Some have even accused climbers of bringing the virus into the country.

Yet most Everest hopefuls felt safe, thanks to their double negative PCR test. Some may be vaccinated, but in a number of countries, including all those in the European Union, vaccines are not available privately but only through strict protocols. With the virus already established in Base Camp, teams are now trying to avoid contact beyond their social bubbles. But the harm is already done.