China has vetoed the ascent of Mount Everest from its territory, to avoid the risk of contagion by the new coronavirus.
Climbing to the top of the tallest mountain on the planet is easiest in the middle of the year, when the weather conditions are better. As a result, the 2021 climbing season from China is suspended. The veto has no end date.
The summit of Everest, which rises to 8,849 meters, is also accessible from Nepal, which keeps the road open. The country issued 408 permits for climbers, while China had only authorized 21 this year, which have now been canceled.
Everest has been climbed by more than 6,000 people since 1953, when the first expedition reached its peak. At least 311 climbers died on the journey to the summit. Due to the pandemic, climbing Everest had been banned since last year, but recently Nepal has again eased activity.
China was the first country to be affected by Covid-19, but has managed to control the contagion. As of Friday (14), there were only 285 cases of coronavirus in the country, according to official data, out of a population of 1.4 billion. In total, the country has recorded 103,000 cases and 4,858 deaths since the start of the crisis.
Nepal, on the other hand, is going through a difficult period of the pandemic. The number of new daily cases, which had not reached 200 at the beginning of April, now stands at nearly 9,000. In total, the country of 28 million inhabitants has recorded 440,000 cases of coronavirus and 4,669 deaths.
Nepal is also on the border with India, which has been recording cases for a few weeks.
According to the New York Times, the camp where climbers stay in Nepal before completing the ascent has recently experienced an outbreak of coronavirus and many climbers have been infected. Dozens of people had to be rescued by helicopter and taken to hospitals in the capital, Kathmandu, after showing symptoms while climbing the mountain.
On Sunday (9), China announced that it would install a barrier at the top of Everest, to prevent climbers from Nepal from entering its territory, to contain the entry of the coronavirus. Traditionally, climbers from both sides met in this space, without restrictions.
In 2019, before the pandemic, there was a line of mountaineers trying to reach the top, and the situation left at least 11 people dead. Traffic jams on the narrow roads led to forced stops in areas known as “death zones”, located at an altitude of over 8,000 meters. There, there is not enough oxygen in the air to breathe and you have to use your own cylinders. If the trip takes longer than expected, the supply may end, resulting in death from suffocation.
In addition, there is a risk of freezing, exhaustion and other altitude related illnesses. The art below explains what happened in the 2019 jams and details how the ascent is performed.