Shisha Pangma No Go, Everest North Side Closed Until May 7

Finally, there’s news from China, and it’s not good: Shisha Pangma will not open to climbers this spring, and the North Side of Everest will only open for foreigners on May 7. Climbers are now re-scheduling or casting about for alternatives. For some, that’s easier than others.

No Shisha Pangma

The nearly 50 clients and staff aiming for Shisha Pangma this season will have to look for something else. The distant view they caught while trekking in Langtang last week is the closest they’ll get to the mountain.

“After 17 days of waiting for confirmation to climb Shisha Pangma, we’ve been informed that climbing will not be permitted in the region,” Moeses Fiamoncini of Brazil wrote.

Now the team members will have to decide what to do. Fiamoncini, who intended to climb Shisha Pangma guiding Brazilian-Italian Dario Libano, told ExplorersWeb he’ll make up his mind in the next few hours. Fiamoncini still has several Nepalese 8,000’ers left to climb. However, others on the team had only Shisha Pangma left to finish their 14×8,000m list.

A climber points to a peak in the distance, marked as Shishapangma

Dario Libano points to Shisha Pangma, 34km away, while hiking recently in Langtang, Nepal. Photo: Moeses Fiamoncini


Retrieval projects canceled too?

It is unknown whether the closure affects Nirmal Purja’s plans to retrieve the bodies of client Anna Gutu and guide Mingmar Sherpa, who perished in an avalanche last fall.

Purja noted recently on social media that he expected a green light from China-Tibet Mountaineering Association (CMTA) to recover the bodies.

“We have recently been informed our application will be accepted,” he wrote. “We will begin the repatriation in April.”

However, he posted this before word came about Shisha Pangma’s closure, and he’s given no update since the news broke.

Kristin Harila, traveling with Seven Summit Treks, also intended to try to find the remains of Tenjen Lama and Gina Marie Rzucidlo, the other two avalanche victims from last fall. The sherpa had guided Harila on all her 8,000m climbs last year.

Weeks earlier, Chinese authorities had announced that Everest would open this spring but did not mention Shisha Pangma. We have no word yet on whether Cho Oyu will open this fall for the expeditions that plan to go there.

Everest in a rush

The CTMA has also announced that Everest will only open for foreigners on May 7, much later than expected. It will then remain open until June 11.

While Shishapangma climbers simply have to find another objective, those heading to the North Side of Everest say they will adapt to the new schedule.

“We will climb some peak in Nepal while we wait for the opening date,” Lukas Furtenbach told ExplorersWeb.

He also noted that while foreigners are not yet allowed, a Chinese expedition on Everest is already fixing ropes up the normal route. This means properly acclimatized Westerners can arrive at the mountain with the route ready. They only need camps set up in order to make a quick ascent as soon as the weather allows.

Adrian Ballinger of Alpenglow Expeditions told ExplorersWeb they too will adjust to the delay.

“The period is still long enough,” he said. “We planned on entering Tibet on April 28 and spending 35 days on the mountain…so there is enough time.”

Season lasts longer on the North Side

One positive aspect is that the North Side of Everest allows a longer season.

“The North Side doesn’t have anything like the Khumbu Icefall that gets unstable with increasing temperatures, leading to an early closure,” Ballinger explained. “That route has no problem with heat or sun later in the season.”

A wind plume rises from the summit of Everest, as seen from its north side.

The North Side of Everest. Photo: Furtenbach Adventures


The North Side of Everest is also less affected by the arrival of the monsoon, which comes from the Bay of Bengal in the south.

“While the monsoon hits Nepal at the end of May and forces the climbing season to close, on the North Side of the Himalaya we typically have good weather well into June,” Ballinger said.

Ballinger said his team members will continue their pre-acclimatization and training at home until they leave.

Still quieter

Whatever the inconveniences and stress, Everest’s North Side will at least be quiet and peaceful compared to the South Side. In the April 21 update of permits issued by Nepal’s Department of Tourism, the number of foreigners climbing Everest rose to 352, so far! There were also 75 for Lhotse, 24 for Nuptse, 11 for Lingtren, and 3 for Pumori. The Everest season is heading for another record year, and Base Camp will be more crowded than ever.

List of climbing permits for Nepal peaks.

List of climbing permits issued in Nepal on April 21.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.