Guides say China is shutting Everest due to virus fears

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Expedition operators on Mount Everest said Thursday that Chinese mountaineering officials will not allow spring climbs from their side of the mountain due to fears of the coronavirus.

On the others side of the mountain in Nepal, operators say cancellations for the popular spring climbing season have been pouring in despite the mountain being open for business.

Dawa Shepra of Kathmandu-based Climbalaya Treks and Expeditions said the officials told them though the virus was getting under control in China, they could not risk bringing in foreign climbers.

He said the conversation with the China Tibet Mountaineering Association officials was over the phone and no official emails, faxes or messages were sent.

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Jiban Ghimire of Shangrila Nepal Trek also said he spoke on the phone with Chinese officials who said there would be no climbing on Everest during this year’s popular spring climbing season.

Climbers using the northern route in China generally uses operators based in Nepal to equip and manage the expeditions.

Although China has canceled most sports events for the foreseeable future, Zhang Mingxin of the Tibetan sports administration said it was still monitoring the situation and had yet to make a decision.

“We have been maintaining contact with overseas organizers of the mountaineering teams to get updated information. It depends on the development of the epidemic situation and the ability of our providing services,” Zhang told The Associated Press on Thursday.

In Nepal the mountaineering season began last week and Everest was still open for climbers.

Officials and mountaineering expedition operators, however, said they fear there will be a significant drop in the number of climbers this year. That could reduce government revenue and affect the thousands of workers who depend on the climbers for their livelihoods.

“This season is not very encouraging for the mountaineering industry in Nepal,” said Surendra Thapa, the director at Nepal’s Department of Tourism.

Operators says though climbers generally arrive in April so they can attempt scale the peak in May, they were getting many cancellations.

“We are getting flooded with postponements. They all want to hold on their climb and shift to 2021 season,” said Jiban Ghimire of Shangrila Nepal Trek.

Pemba Sherpa of Xtreme Climbers Treks, said all of the cancellations were going to be a big setback for Nepal’s mountaineering industry.

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