There will be no traffic jam on Mount Everest this year. The government of Nepal announced on Friday that due to fears of COVID-19 being spread by arriving climbers, it would suspend all climbing permits for Mount Everest and all other peaks in the country. The announcement followed a Thursday order by China banning expeditions from its side of the world’s highest peak. The move comes as the annual climbing season was set to kick off next month, leaving many sherpas and mountain guides unemployed during the time period in which they earn the vast majority of their income.
Permits purchased by Everest climbers can cost up to $11,000 per climber, leaving Nepal, one of Asia’s poorest nations, without one of its most consistent sources of revenue. Many climbers coming from abroad pay nearly $100,000 for a guided experience to summit the world’s highest mountain. Nepal has had one confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, and canceling the climbing season is a preventative measure to keep foreigners from bringing additional cases and putting themselves at risk at high altitudes. The country has also suspended its visa on arrival system for foreign tourists and will require all foreign arrivals to adhere to a 14-day quarantine.
Many Everest tour operators, including California-based Alpenglow Expeditions, canceled their 2020 Everest trips following China’s decision on Thursday, and operators around the globe had seen increased cancellations even before the announcements. “Our concern would be getting someone stricken by the virus safely off the mountain,” said Alpenglow Expeditions CEO Adrian Ballinger in a statement on the company’s website. “Receiving appropriate medical attention at a remote site like this would be very challenging, and getting someone home, while ill, a logistical nightmare.”
It is unknown when the Nepalese government will begin issuing permits for the country’s other popular peaks including Annapurna, Kanchenjunga, and Lhotse, among others.