Travel | April 5, 2021 7:00 am

COVID-19 Fears Complicate Climbers’ Return to Mount Everest

A new wrinkle on an already complex process

Mount Everest
Mount Everest.
Andreas Gäbler/Unsplash

Even before the pandemic, the prospect of climbing Mount Everest was getting a little worrying. Overcrowding put many officials in the difficult position of having to choose between having more climbers at a higher risk or playing it safe but potentially tripping up the industries that rely on climbers for their income. And while those anxieties predate the pandemic, more than a few new anxieties have sprung up to affect climbers thinking about trying their hand at the storied mountain.

At The New York Times, Bhadra Sharma and Emily Schmall address the ways that prospective climbers are preparing for the likelihood of a new COVID-19 outbreak. Among the people they spoke with was former NFL player Mark Pattinson, who has taken some extra steps for his planned ascent of Everest — including bringing along face masks and hand sanitizer, and taking out insurance that would cover a rescue in case of a coronavirus outbreak.

Further complicating matters is one big logistical matter. Sharma and Schmall write that “Nepal has no clear plan to test or isolate climbers if one tests positive for the virus.” Much of the planning for that seems to have been left in the hands of the companies managing expeditions up the mountain.

The reporters describe this decision as a “calculated risk” on the part of Nepal’s government — and cite some alarming statistics to show just how central Everest is to the country’s economy. Still, this year seems like an especially risky time to try to summit the mountain — but that doesn’t seem to be stopping many people from making the attempt.

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