A number of Mount Everest Climbers Check Optimistic for Coronavirus

The Nepalese coronavirus outbreak, which is growing faster than almost anywhere else in the world, has spread to the remote Himalayas. More and more climbers test positive after being evacuated from the base camps of Mount Everest and the surrounding peaks.

In the past few weeks, several climbers have been flown out of Mount Everest Base Camp after reporting symptoms of Covid-19 and tested positive after reaching Kathmandu, the capital. On Wednesday, Nepalese news outlets reported that 14 climbers, including foreigners and Sherpa guides, were flown from Mount Dhaulagiri, another major peak, to Kathmandu for treatment after some were found infected.

The cases have raised fears for the safety of climbers and their Nepalese guides driving expeditions into the prohibited high-altitude terrain, where doctors say they are already prone to disease, lower blood oxygen levels and weaker immunity. Hundreds of climbers and Sherpas isolate themselves in their tents in gusty conditions at Everest Base Camp, trying to protect themselves from infection as they prepare to climb the 29,000-foot peak.

The Nepalese government, determined to revive its lucrative mountaineering industry after a complete shutdown last year, continues to deny that there was an eruption at Everest base camp and has not released any information on the number of climbers evacuated. The government has issued 408 permits to climb the world’s tallest peak, the highest in any year since the first recorded peak in 1953, and earned millions in royalties.

“I’ve heard only a few cases of pneumonia,” said Mira Acharya, an official with the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism. “No corona case.”

Infections are skyrocketing in Nepal, from less than 100 a day in early March to more than 7,500 on Tuesday, the highest the country has seen since the pandemic began. The surge coincided with the devastating eruption in neighboring India, and foreign climbers may have been infected en route through the mountains in March and April en route to the mountains.

Erlend Ness, a Norwegian climber, said he got sick at Everest Base Camp last month and was evacuated to a hospital in Kathmandu by helicopter and ambulance.

“I tested positive at the hospital the same day I arrived in Kathmandu from the mountains,” Ness said by phone from Oslo, where doctors told him he could not return to Nepal this year.

Another climber, Steve Davis, recorded his airlift from base camp last month and the positive test that followed on his blog. Mr Davis remains in Nepal, where the government has banned domestic and international flights as part of its recent lockdown.

Last week, Pawel Michalski, a climber from Poland, wrote on Facebook that more than 30 people with breathing difficulties had been flown to Kathmandu by helicopter – and “were later found positive for coronavirus”.

The Nepalese health ministry warned last week that “hospitals are running out of beds” but authorities said they would not cancel expeditions.

Rudra Singh Tamang, director general of the tourism department, said elite Sherpas would finish installing a rope this week to help climbers reach the summit of Everest.

“Expeditions are not canceled,” said Mr Tamang, who tested positive for the virus and is self-isolating. “Everest is an isolated area, so there is no coronavirus risk.”

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