Should you stay or should you go? Options for the Nepal fall season

As Covid took hold of Nepal just prior to the spring climbing and trekking season, the impact on the local population rapidly became evident.

Everest, left, from Tangboyche Monastery, Nepal. Lhotse on left, early spring with early morning winds wishing off the tops.

With international travel slowly opening up, the option to return to Nepal for the fall climbing and trekking season became a slight possibility, but still with much uncertainty in the air.

Guiding companies took a range of approaches, from limited options, to advocating a strong point of view that any visit was just plain fool-hardy and potentially putting both locals and yourself at risk.

Perhaps the most vocal, with a very well thought through approach is Guy Cotter who heads up Adventure Network, who concludes his newsletter with:

“It comes down to who you are as a person and who you are prepared to put at risk for your own reward.”

Climbers have long been an internally focused and self-centered group on the whole, and anything that stands in the way of doing what we wish, when we want, is not uncommon. Yet right now, it seems looking beyond some immediate gratification, is certainly the most caring approach to the countries we visit.

As we dip into the fall season, the real pain is in Nepal itself, as highlighted by the Nepal Times in their article covering what the economic cost has been over the last 5 months. With virtually no work, and currently no flights into the country, the entire tourism industry is at a stand-still, and associated revenues non-existent. 

Everest North Face from Advanced Base Camp, Central Rongbuk. Photo: Warren Morgan.

Roland Hunter at The Mountain Company, a U.K. based trekking and mountaineering operator, goes into more detail, covering insurance considerations and travel challenges. He also ends on a note, that any of us traveling to a remote area that is covid-free, and then introducing it could be nothing less than disastrous, with the lack of health, hygiene and faclilities in those areas.

Companies with a wide base of expeditions, like Jagged-Globe, have been active locally in the U.K. and in the European Alps this summer, with trips planned to run later in the fall in Nepal, conditions permitting.

As Tom Briggs, a Director at Jagged Globe points out, ‘they have a real duty of care to their clients’ to ensure the mix of challenges, from international travel, to insurance, to the local peoples welfare, is all under consideration. Jagged Globe is also fund-raising for their Sherpa teams and you can help them out here

For a deeper dive into what the different companies plans are, the American Mountain Guiding Association has been doing interviews with Guide Companies on their plans; with webinars, lists and interviews that cover a spectrum of operational issues. As the past president of The American Alpine Club Phil Powers has stated in a video, the one constant is change.  

The highlight right now may be that in the ever changing environment we are living in, a plan is fine, and then changing the plan is fine too.

Everest, Hillary Step
The line over the Hillary step. Big numbers of people, big teams and little coordination in years past have created massive traffic jams. Hiding behind oxygen masks was an essential part of the mix. 

For individuals wanted to move through all the hoops, which are considerable, as I’ve recently found in travel to Denmark and then a move to Dubai, looking after yourself should be just part of the consideration.

More importantly, considering the potential impact on others should be very high on the list. At the same time, getting back out and providing some revenue for the local in the many far flung places we visit, when conditions allow, can certainly be part of the plan. 

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Sharing a beer with Conrad Anker before his ascent of Vinson in the 2020 season. Life in the dining tent, with the normal troupe of polar celebrities and adventures passing through just may not be quite the same.

Further afield, for those looking to visit Antarctica this year and climb Vinson, updates are due out the end of August 2020 from Antarctica Logistics & Expeditions for travel in the 2020/2021 season.

I guide for Jagged Globe, The Mountain Company and share stories with Guy Cotter when our schedules allow in Kathmandu.