Everest Climbers Creep Up as Covid Creeps Into Base Camp

Climbers are on the move up Everest, climbing through the Khumbu Icefall towards Camp One before moving higher to Camp Two.

Up and over in the Khumbu Icefall. Less fitness needed than fears conquered on early forays to the heights.

The first real climb onto the mountain is always a real test. As I originally presented in a talk, Fear, Fitness and Faith, at The Explorers Club in New York, you may start out wondering if you are strong enough, and you end up wondering if you are brave enough, for the conditions you will have to climb through.

Despite the first cases of Covid being documented by Norwegian Climber Erlend Ness from his hospital bed in Kathmandu, news from Base Camp is more business as usual, as climbers attempt to stay on schedule, get acclimatized and climb higher on the mountain.

Base Camp, long a bastion of excess and an attempt to keep mountain discomforts at bay, has perhaps reached a new high, (or low judging by comments), with the introduction of “Executive Domes” by Climb the Seven Summits.

Everest Base Camp in all it’s glory. In days past, Russell Brice’s magnificent Super Dome and Espresso Bar was the place to see and be seen. With Conrad Anker, left, Doctor Monica Piris, Adrian Ballinger playing Barista. Photo: RMA

After a night of slumber in a heated Executive Dome, maybe one will be better rested. Then again, the move to Camp Two could be such a shock after living in your Dome you will simply have to retreat? As one comment was made on Instagram asks however, (the font of all knowledge) “Is that really the most sustainable option?”

This year, perhaps more than ever, the lines between those who are just trying to get on the mountain cheaply and those who are trying to get up the mountain at any cost are more sharply drawn.

With local Nepali companies reportedly discounting heavily to pull in as many climbers as possible to make up for last years shortfall when Everest was closed, large teams, perhaps with less experience, will be bound to fill up the mountain. Currently, Everest registrations are approaching record limits and could soon surpass all previous years.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, people who have decided Everest is another tick needed for their life experience and have the funds to make it reality, are in a hurry whether there is a pandemic or not. With an early belief that this year may have been quieter than usual, and the danger of waiting in lines less, climbers have flocked to the American companies.

The recent Covid cases, as reported in The Guardian, “Everest Covid Cases Shine a Harsh Light on Nepali Decision” begins to raise further questions, as Covid sweeps across India and into Nepal. Whether the 1,000’s of bottles of oxygen climbers will be using above could be saving Nepali lives in hospitals below, perhaps isn’t a popular topic of conversation around the heaters turned to high in Everest Base Camp dining tents?

Porter with a virtual store on his back heads up the Khumbu.

For the local people, they will certainly be welcoming the return to business, as Upendra Lama, a porter was quoted in the New York Times last year, “I often think I will die of hunger before corona kills me.”

As ever, the dream of climbing Everest and the reality of climbing Everest, particularly this year, may be quite different than expected. After all though, that is inherent in any adventure.

Everest on left, and Lhotse right.