Grim Forecast for Himalaya, Karakorum

While operators cling to a shred of optimism, the forecasts are not bright for the Greater Ranges in the months ahead. Nepal has just extended the country’s lockdown until May 18, and the borders are closed at least until May 31, according to the Department of Immigration. With the spring a write-off and the monsoon looming, a limited autumn season is the best we can hope for. Even this is doubtful, as experts predict a second wave of COVID-19 to hit the northern hemisphere this fall.


Update from Nepal’s Department of Immigration


Meanwhile, in Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a relative easing of lockdown measures beginning this Saturday, despite the country’s 1,754 new cases and 35 new fatalities. But even more than many other countries, Pakistan’s population desperately needs to resume work in order to survive: The state simply can’t cover the needs of everyone sheltering in place. At the same time, in a classic rock/hard place scenario, the government continues to warn about a possible coronavirus spike in one, two or three months.

The curve is not flattening in Pakistan. Further stats here.


So while local activity could resume and borders could theoretically open to foreigners, the pandemic situation will likely discourage most foreigners from visiting Pakistan for the time being.

While hopes seesaw with each news cycle, climbers worldwide have begun to look longer term. Alex Txikon was among the last professional climbers in the Himalaya, returning from winter Ama Dablam and Everest shortly before the lockdowns started. Currently training in his hometown hills in Spain’s Basque country, he has set aside all international plans for the upcoming summer.

“I don’t think there will be a summer Karakorum climbing season this year,” he told ExplorersWeb, “although I hope something can be done for the large number of people in Pakistan who depend of mountain tourism.”  Climbers have commented on the sorry state of the Baltoro Glacier area and the 8,000’ers, and Txikon suggests that this could be the time to employ the local Balti communities in a major cleaning operation.

“Pakistan could also promote some not-so-well-known areas, such as the Nanga Parbat region or the Hispar-Biafo, which are simply amazing,” he added.

As for Nepal post-monsoon or next winter, Txikon believes that it is still to early to tell. “Things change so fast that it makes no sense to plan anything…There is nothing we can do but wait and see what happens.”