China Cancels Mount Everest Expeditions Due to Coronavirus Threat

everest
Everest (Mount Qomolangma). Taken in the base camp of north side Everest.Photo: Courtesy of Meiqianbao/Shutterstock

The rapid spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is triggering a frenzy of reactions across the globe. As of Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially categorized the disease as a pandemic. In the U.S., businesses are urging employees to work from home, many universities are closing their campuses and switching to online classes, and even professional sports teams will begin playing their games without fans in attendance.

The threat extends well beyond borders, as operations of all sizes are halting in attempts to curb the virus’s spread. The closures have now extended to the planet’s geographic extremes, as professional mountaineer and CEO of Alpenglow Expeditions Adrian Ballinger stated that China has prohibited Mount Everest expeditions for the season.

“Today, China announced the closure of Mt Everest for the spring season,” Ballinger stated in an Instagram post. “While I am saddened for all the hard work our members, guides, Sherpa, local staff, partners and office have put in, and that they and we won’t get to test ourselves on the highest playground in the world this year, I am in agreement with China’s decision.”

 

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Life…as we struggle with losing a friend, business and the world and Coronavirus don’t stop. This is the whirlwind we choose to surround ourselves with. Today, China announced the closure of Mt Everest for the spring season. While I am saddened for all the hard work our members, guides, Sherpa, local staff, partners and office have put in, and that they and we won’t get to test ourselves on the highest playground in the world this year, I am in agreement with China’s decision. It is responsible, and the same one @alpenglowexpeditions was inevitably leaning towards in the past days. Climbing a mountain is not currently worth the transmission risk in the Base Camps, nor upon returning home. #Everest2020 #everest #adventuredoneright // 📸 @hiro_kuraoka

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According to Gear Junkie, all access to the mountain from the northern, Tibet side has been closed due to threats of spreading the disease around Base Camp. Ballinger explains that climbing Everest is an enormous strain on a person’s respiratory system, and an outbreak in such an environment could quickly become life-threatening.

Though it’s currently unclear whether or not Nepal will close expedition access on its side of the mountain, Ballinger explained that Nepal may follow suit. “Even if they don’t,” added Ballinger, “the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak and the underlying issues of ascending from the south side, including the lack of effective management, overcrowding, and an unpredictable icefall, make such an expedition unsafe in our eyes. It’s not a gamble we’re willing to take.”

What is clear is the importance of diligent safety precautions. The WHO urges everyone to wash their hands frequently, maintain social distances, avoid touching your eyes/nose/mouth. And if you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care immediately.

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