EFirst of all, the Chinese authorities did not allow international expeditions on the Tibetan north side of Mount Everest during this pre-monsoon. Then they considered setting up a dividing line on the summit, which lies on the border of Tibet and Nepal, so that the participants of the only purely Chinese expedition would not meet expedition members from the Nepalese south side at the highest point at 8,849 meters. On May 14th, the Chinese expedition was finally canceled entirely. There should be no corona superspreading on the roof of the world.
The caution was justified. Documentary filmmaker Scott Simper was among the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest from the south side this year, and it turned out afterwards that the 52-year-old American, who lives in New Zealand, was infected with the coronavirus on May 11th infected when he was up there. For Simper it was the third successful ascent. But this time something was different. He felt tired and had difficulty breathing. His wife Anna Keeling told the New Zealand online magazine Stuff that she spoke to her husband on the phone on the day of the summit, who sounded completely exhausted and was barely able to speak. A corona test brought certainty. Simper suspects that he and a few teammates were infected at base camp before the five-day climb to the summit.
Sick people had to be picked up by helicopter
But there were also infections on the mountain. Lukas Furtenbach, expedition organizer from Innsbruck, is sure that one of his participants who tested positive for Corona got infected on the way from the base camp to the first high camp. In the Khumbu Icefall, people often stand close together, breathing hard when they have to wait before steep climbs or at ladder bridges that have been laid over crevasses. Furtenbach ended his expedition prematurely and sent his customers home. “It would be irresponsible to risk the lives of our customers, mountain guides and Sherpas carelessly with these massively increasing corona numbers in the base camp,” he announced in mid-May.
The initial criticism of his decision has now turned into approval. Six other major organizers followed him. “Our decision was absolutely correct. There are more and more reports of people who were sick on their summit and then tested positive. Some were also evacuated by helicopter from the second high camp at 6450 meters and then tested positive for Covid. If the helicopter cannot fly because of bad weather, it can quickly become a drama, ”says Furtenbach.
How many corona cases there actually were on Everest can only be speculated about. Expedition organizers unanimously report that every team was affected, and numerous sick people had to be brought to Kathmandu by helicopter. According to the American broadcaster CNN, Tashi Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks, the largest operator, said a quarter of the participants tested positive. And not only that: three mountaineers died on the mountain. The cause is said to have been exhaustion. They reportedly complained of pain in their lungs and breathing problems despite an oxygen mask, which could indicate a Covid infection. There is no confirmation of this.