Amid growing concerns regarding COVID-19, Nepal has decided to shut down access to Mount Everest and to the rest of its Himalayan Mountains. As of 13 March 2020, the spring climbing season in Nepal is closed.
The small, landlocked country of Nepal is home to eight of the world’s 14 8,000 m mountains, which rake in an average of $4.4 million in permit fees per year. Nepal, which economically relies heavily on permit revenue, announced that the spring climbing season of Mount Everest is officially closed due to concerns regarding COVID-19.
In a statement to Reuters, Nepal’s Tourism Minister, Yogesh Bhattarai, said, “Climbing this season has been closed.” Bhattarai confirmed the closure was due to concerns regarding COVID-19 stating, “It is as a precaution for that.”
Additionally, Nepal has closed access to the rest of its Himalayan Mountains for the March-May 2020 spring season. This policy is further reinforced by ceasing the issuance of visas on arrival. According to the Nepalese Government, this visa policy will remain in place until 30 April 2020.
Nepal has confirmed one case of Coronavirus in the country so far. The individual affected is a student, who studies in China and was on a trip home in Nepal. That person is one of a total of 450 individuals who were tested.
Mount Everest rises to a height of 29,029 ft (8,848 m) from the base of its Khumbu Glacier. It’s the tallest mountain in the world and one of Nepal’s largest earning destinations, which it shares with China. Everest straddles the border between Nepal and Tibet, and China announced on 12 March that it was also closing its side of Mount Everest to climbers.
The policies for climbing Mount Everest are strict and can change at any time.
- In 2017, Nepal was proposing tightening the age restrictions for older climbers.
- Later that year, China closed its Tibet border to Everest after a climber illegally traversed the mountain from one side to the other. In all cases, those with upcoming expeditions either were or could have been affected.
The decision not only affects hundreds of climbers with planned upcoming seasons, but it will be a huge financial hit to Nepal’s economy. For many of the Sherpa people living in these remote locations near the Himalaya, they rely also on the more popular spring climbing season for their income.
A climber can spend upwards of $65,000 on an expedition including the $11,000 permit fees, wages for Sherpas, porters, cooks, equipment and more. There is a short weather window available to climb each season before the rainy months begin in June.
This is not the first time a climbing season has been canceled due to emergencies. In 2015, the spring climbing season was canceled after an earthquake killed 18 climbers on Everest and 9,000 civilians.
Sharma, Gopal. “Nepal Closes Mount Everest for Climbers Because of Coronavirus Fears.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 13 Mar. 2020.
Author Unavailable “Mount Everest: Nepal’s Government Shuts off Mountain amid Virus Outbreak.” BBC News, BBC, 13 Mar. 2020.
Miller, Ryan W. “Mount Everest Is Closed: Coronavirus Fears Reach World’s Tallest Peak as Climbing Permits Halted.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 13 Mar. 2020.
Picheta, Rob. “Mount Everest Closed over Coronavirus Fears.” CNN, Cable News Network, 13 Mar. 2020.