Everest is now closed. Following an announcement from China that it would restrict climbing on its half of the mountain due to coronavirus concerns, Nepal followed suit today with a full shutdown of the mountain's southern side, completely closing off the peak to climbers hoping to summit this spring.
“This is disappointing news for both our expedition leaders and our clients who have trained for months for this year’s climb,” wrote Lukas Furtenbach, the founder of Furtenbach Adventures, a guiding company that had multiple summit expeditions planned for the spring. “At Furtenbach, we continue to emphasize safety and wellbeing above all, so we understand the dire consequences a COVID-19 outbreak at base camp would have. Sadly, we have to agree that this is a responsible call to make right now.”
As SNEWS reported yesterday, the decision to close Everest largely concerns the nature of the virus itself, which affects respiratory function in affected individuals. In a low-oxygen environment like Everest, respiratory impairment would prove doubly dangerous. The communal nature of Everest base camps, where climbers live in close quarters, also played a part in China and Nepal's decision to close the mountain.
“We are currently alerting all our customers about the cancellation and are arranging refunds for the refundable portions of their expeditions,” wrote Furtenbach. “At the same time, we’re already looking ahead to next year’s season.”
Alpenglow Expeditions and other guide companies planning ascents on the Tibetan side of the mountain have already cancelled spring trips.