First Everest summit expedition cancelled due to rising COVID-19 infections

Mount Everest Base Camp in 2021
Mount Everest Base Camp in 2021 has had its first expedition canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak

In the middle of the Everest climbing season Nepal is also in the middle of a second COVID-19 wave

The Austrian expedition company Furtenbach Adventures announced on Saturday that they were cancelling their attempt at climbing Mount Everest this season. Such calls are usually made due to bad weather. In 2021 it was due to an increasing number of COVID-19 infections at base camp. Something that Nepal’s tourism spokesperson does not seem to think is that critical.

In a dazzling week of Nepali news we had the Nepali Prime Minister on CNN saying there was no problem (Source: CNN). While a few days later he wrote on the The Guardian newspaper that Nepal needed help (Source: The Guardian). He then lost a vote of no confidence. Then, he won re-election.

It seems that in the world of politics counting votes & playing political games is more important than preventing deaths – at least we know where we stand now

Meanwhile back in reality on the ground in Nepal things continue to spiral downwards due to oxygen shortages in Kathmandu and a rising number of COVID-19 cases at Everest Base Camp.

Helicopter in Solukhumbu
2 weeks ago the first climber came back from Everest and tested positive for COVID-19 … the climbing season continued on

In a Facebook post Furtenbach Adventures stated the following:

“We cancel our Everest expedition

(Everest BC, May 15, 2021) Furtenbach Adventures is the first expedition operator to cancel its current expedition on Mount Everest. The number of people infected with Covid in the base camp is increasing, for safety reasons the expedition is therefore ended immediately and the return journey started.

‘I didn’t make the decision easy for myself. But to climb above base camp with these massively increasing corona numbers and risk the lives of our 20 customers, 4 mountain guides and 27 Sherpas carelessly, would be irresponsible,’said Lukas Furtenbach, Managing Director of Furtenbach Adventures .

In the past few days, the number of people infected with corona in Everest base camp has increased massively. ‘With some teams, elementary precautionary measures were simply not observed. There were meetings between the teams, there were celebrations and parties were held. That is why there is a sudden increase in corona infected people. Our team remained isolated the entire time, our doctor did tests regularly, now even daily. But now the point has been reached where we pull the plug, ‘says Furtenbach, who is also very surprised that nothing is being done by the official Nepalese side.

The high camps on the mountain have been set up in the last few days, and the clients are well acclimatized. A further ascent is too dangerous because there is much less space in the high camps so that the risk of infection increases automatically. ‘Anyone who becomes infected with Covid at high altitude, then develops symptoms and becomes ill, is very difficult to help. We do not take this risk, not for our sherpas and not for our clients and guides, which is why our expedition is stopped immediately,’ said Furtenbach.”

(Source)

“Some” in Nepal seem oblivious

“Mira Acharya, director of Nepal’s tourism department, denied the severity of the situation at the base camp.

‘Doctors at the base camp said the situation was not as serious as it was reported,’ she told Reuters. (Source: The Guardian)

Meanwhile, even China has cancelled its own 2021 peak Everest Climbing season (Source: Reuters)

Snow at base camp
Usually it’s snow or bad weather that cancelled expeditions to Everest – this year it’s COVID-19 infections

On the ground in Nepal trekking tourists are incredibly frustrated at the mass confusion due to international flights being cancelled. A hotline and emergency contacts have been released to help tourists. However, from personal experience I would say contact your embassy, then start calling the airlines they advise you to contact.

Some countries like the USA are arranging emergency flights out of Nepal. However the details are scarce. Others like Russia want to send an Aeroflot plane but are being told they haven’t been given permission to land yet. A crises center known as Stranded in Nepal has been set up.

Here are some helplines:

Stranded in Nepal Crisis Cell Number: 9851254666
Government COVID19 Hotline 9851255839, 9851255837, 9851255834
Tourist Police 1144 / 014247041
Nepal Police 100 / 014228435
Sukraraj Hospital (Kathmandu) 014253396
Gandaki Hospital (Pokhara) 061520067

If calling internationally:
Use country code +977 (Nepal)
Omit the leading 0 (zero) from the number

WhatsApp Groups:

#StrandedInNepal — Support channel

#StrandedinNepal2 – if the first one is full

What is going on?

I wrote last week about the second wave of COVID-19 in Nepal. If you read that, then you’ll know what’s going on. The Everest summit cancelation is long over due and will no doubt hit the headlines over the coming days. Nepali authorities have been stuck in a political quagmire while COVID-19’s second wave has been raging all around.

Crowds at Everest Base Camp
Reports have been coming in for weeks of people with coughs and fevers … something that was denied by those that had the power to help others

As Europe and the USA start to come out of lockdowns, Asia is facing a second wave of COVID-19 spearheaded by the new Indian variant which is more contagious than the British variant. In the UK at the moment scientists are worried about the severity of this variant. We seem to be playing a deadly game of back and forth with COVID variants.

This deadly game would not be so bad if it wasn’t for the obvious lack of care in Nepal. Much like the 2015 earthquake it seems like it’s up to individual people to look after themselves rather than depending on those in charge.

Now we now the rules, we can do something

Previously people held out hope. Now that hope is taking action for oneself. Many Nepali are returning to villages away from large gatherings. This despite vaccinations mainly being given in the big cities. People are now aware that the best thing to do is self-quarantine away from others.

Trekking from Everest Base Camp
Now people are returning from the mountains

There’s no point waiting for rescue flights of vaccine as there are no flights. Some in charge are in denial the problem is so severe yet in return for some flights being allowed the incoming flights will have “donations” of oxygen supplies. Where these end up, nobody is sure.

There are 18,000 Chinese gifted oxygen cylinders at the border of Nepal for the past few days waiting to be picked up – meanwhile everyone is wondering why they are still at the border?

While all of the above seems bleak, it’s also a relief. We will look after ourselves and not rely on those that should be doing it. Much like the Everest summit that was just cancelled, it’s time to use common sense instead of dependence. We see things getting better in the rest of the world and we know it will be a tough wait until the same happens in Nepal. Vaccines are appearing, things will get better it’s just not going to happen so soon.

Things are also good here

I am safe. My good friend who contracted COVID-19 last week despite having one shot of Sinovac vaccine 3 weeks ago has recovered. I’m working on the Kathmandu Valley Heritage Walks international edition. If the simple life is something you enjoy then Nepal is just that for many now. People are farming lands in the knowledge that the rains are soon to come. This year crops will be more important than ever as incomes did not happen this year.

Statue at Namche Bazaar
Lessons learned, we know there will come a day when we will rise to the top again

In rural areas the internet is either too slow or not working. People are for once not getting caught up in politics or negative media. It helps for what’s going to be a long summer of discontent elsewhere. The land has returned to prominence with farming. The jobs no one wanted to do before are now being completed. Houses are being built, sanitary drains are been tended to. People know where they stand now.

We wait for news on vaccines. We look to other countries to see how the variants are reacting there. We sit in relative safety waiting for the right time to come out into a better world. It could be a long wait.


Get my coffee table book to help keep people safe over the next few weeks

I published Kathmandu: Signs From The Past last week in an effort to help those who are in lockdown and can’t work at the moment. Thank you to those who purchased it! We are making a difference and hope to continue making that difference over the worst of this new outbreak of COVID-19.

Basically, it helps keep people inside instead of wandering outside looking for work. It also means we’ll be able to print the book in Nepal once things open up. Profits from this book help those who are in lockdown with no government support & who’ve just lost their jobs.

Unlike the Earthquake, it’s not about aid as vaccines simply aren’t available to give. This time it’s just about surviving the worst of this outbreak. This is the only way I think that I can help with immediate affect.

 

Stack of Kathmandu: Signs from the past books

 

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12 Replies to “First Everest summit expedition cancelled due to rising COVID-19 infections”

  1. Thanks for this update. I’ve been reading the news about Nepal recently and it’s hard to work out what’s true or not. Shame things have gone this way. Glad you are safe.

    1. Its good to get a more balanced update on the situation here.
      Im waifing out the situation too, and appreciate the help and your personal insight on the situation. Who knows what the future holds but life goes on, just like the temples of Nepal have remained through time.

      1. Indeed, it helps to have a hands on approach in Nepal. Glad the the balanced update helps. Right now, Kathmandu is still in trouble, but it is in complete lockdown which is helping. Other parts of Nepal are doing better.

  2. Glad you are okay. When all else fails, take care of yourself. Sounds like that’s what the people in Nepal are doing too.

  3. It’s so sad to read that Nepal has fallen like this. I am inspired to read about the people surviving though. Why Everest Climbers were allowed to continue on a don’t know. It seems like it’s all about money now.

  4. I think a lot of people have lost respect for Everest mountaineers after this. If they are wealthy enough to climb, then they are wealthy enough to wait.

    Why the Nepali authorities didn’t vaccinate the local villagers before allowing this just shows incompetence. A thousand business owners in Kathmandu get vaccinated, but no villagers.

    Happy to support you, but I’m no longer interested in a Nepal that only thinks about money whenever there is a disaster. The world is a disaster at the moment so Nepal has to take a place in the queue.

    1. That’s the general consensus at the moment it seems. However one must also take into consideration that Nepal did open up and everyone that entered Nepal is meant to have fulfilled their obligations in regards to quarantining and PCR tests. Did Nepal jump the gun? I think the second wave of COVID was going to hit Nepal with or without tourists just as it has done in other Asian countries. Should Nepal have vaccinated the local villagers before allowing climber in, yes.

  5. It’s a tough situation to be in. On the one hand Nepal says one thing, but a few days later says another. Something is amiss. Your article cleared a lot of things up. It’s going to be a long spring and summer for Nepal no doubt. Let’s hope COVAX helps in getting vaccines to Nepal.

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