Climbers rejoiced when Nepal decided to reopen its side of Mount Everest this year, but reports suggest even the world’s highest peak isn’t safe from the spread of Covid-19.
Some climbers there have now reported testing positive, despite the Nepali government saying there are no infections on Everest. Erland Ness, a Norwegian climber who was evacuated from Everest Base Camp in late April, confirmed to CNN he tested positive on arrival at a hospital in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. “When I tested positive, it was a shock. And then I realized that the expedition was over for me,” Ness said. “My dream was to reach the summit and see the view.” Since then, Polish climber Pawel Michalski said in a Facebook post that “30 people have already been evacuated” from base camp and subsequently tested positive. And Everest ER, a voluntary organization that provides aid to those on the mountain, has said some climbers are isolating in their tents, “as we’ve had a few confirmed cases of Covid with evacuation from EBC (Everest Base Camp).”
Nepali government rules preventing mountaineers from sharing photos of other climbers without consent have restricted information coming from the mountain, but rumors are spreading of more cases — and not just on Everest. At least 19 people have been evacuated from climbing camps on the world’s seventh-highest peak — Dhaulagiri — 345 kilometers (214 miles) west of Everest, according to Mingma Sherpa, chairman of tour operator Seven Summits Trek. Seven tested positive and 12 others were due to take a test after showing symptoms, he added.
Nepal Army spokesperson Brig. Gen. Shantosh Ballave Poudyal said three cleaners at Dhaulagiri Base Camp have tested positive. One was evacuated Wednesday and two will be evacuated once the weather clears. Lukas Furtenbach, an expedition leader, said climbers are worried Nepal will close Everest and popular trails. “My guess is there will be more cases,” Furtenbach told CNN from his camp at Mera Peak, south of Everest. “Everyone is concerned about a message coming from the Department of Tourism: ‘You all have to go home.'”