Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, and the other peaks of the Himalayan range are visible through an airplane window as they fly from Kathmandu, Nepal on January 15, 2020. REUTERS / Monika Deupala / File Photo
The international expedition scrapped an attempt to climb Mount Everest on Saturday, organizers said, citing risks associated with the growing number of COVID-19 cases at base camp.
Some climbers were evacuated from Everest Base Camp in April after contracting symptoms of COVID-19 as Nepal battles a second brutal wave of infections.
Lukas Furtenbach of the Austrian expedition organizer Furtenbach Adventures said his team of climbers from America, Norway, Israel, Germany, Austria, Italy, Luxembourg and Romania refused to climb for safety reasons as the number of COVID-19 infected at the camp base increased …
“To climb … with such a skyrocketing number of coronaviruses and casually risking the lives of our 20 climbers, 4 mountain guides and 27 Sherpas would be irresponsible,” Furtenbach said in a statement.
Infection at Everest Base Camp has skyrocketed as some teams simply did not take basic precautions, he said, without naming any expeditions.
Sherpa Tandy of Iceland Trekking and Expedition, which provided local support to the team, confirmed that climbers are returning for fear of illness.
Tourism Department Director Mira Acharya said she had no information about the evacuation of any expedition due to concerns about COVID-19.
“Doctors at base camp said the situation was not as serious as reported,” she told Reuters. “I didn’t see a terrible situation there,” said Acharya, who returned this week after overseeing training at the base camp.
Nepal has recorded 447,704 coronavirus cases and 4,856 deaths, according to government figures.
The Himalayan nation, which makes millions of dollars annually from climbers, closed the mountain in March 2020 due to the pandemic, but reopened for this year’s climbing season, which began in April. It has issued a record 408 permits to climbers attempting to climb a peak of 8,848.86 meters (29,031.69 ft).
Acharya said more than 150 people climbed the mountain this month, while others were waiting for a new weather window to open.
This week, two climbers died on the mountain from exhaustion.
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