Nepal shut its borders in March just ahead of the busy spring season when hundreds of mountaineers usually flock to the country. This affected the revenue adversely as it cost jobs and millions of dollars.
Now, the Himalayan country has reopened its mountains — including Everest — for the autumn trekking and climbing season. The action, despite coronavirus uncertainty, is considered to boost the struggling tourism sector, officials said Friday.
A nationwide lockdown was lifted last week, and Nepal is now open “for tourism activities, including mountaineering and trekking.” Mira Acharya of the tourism department said.
“We are working on safety protocols including for how long visitors will have to quarantine on arrival,” added Acharya.
The government will permit international flights to land in the country from August 17. The decision comes despite over 1,000 new coronavirus infections reported this week, with a total of 19,547 cases.
Tent cities grow at the foot of Everest and other peaks in the climbing seasons, with climbers and support staff all living in close quarters. Breathing is already difficult at higher altitude — adding to medical risks if there is an outbreak of any kind among climbers.
“Clients are calling, but we were waiting to find out how long arrivals will have to quarantine for. It would be a relief for mountaineering workers if we can run expeditions after an empty spring season,” Mingma Sherpa said. She is of Seven Summit Treks, one of the biggest Nepali expedition organizers.
Mountaineering experts say the September-November season is more dangerous due to high winds and lower temperatures, and the world’s highest mountains see only a handful attempt to climb them.
Last year’s traffic-clogged spring climbing season saw a record 885 people summit Everest, 644 of them from the south, and 241 from the northern flank in Tibet.