China Reopens North Side of Everest to National Climbers

In yet another sign that things are getting back to normal post-coronavirus in China, the Chinese Tibetan Mountaineering Association has announced the reopening of the North Side of Everest. The move comes just a few weeks after officials announced that closing of the peak for the 2020 spring climbing season, but there are a few caveats to receive a permit—most notably, all climbers must be Chinese nationals.

According to The Himalayan Times, all foreign climbers will remain banned from entering Tibet this season, but permits will be issued to Chinese climbers who looking to attempt Everest this spring. A source inside Tibet tells the Times that Chinese teams will easily be able to get permits once the process reopens, although there is no timeframe for when that will happen. The same source says that there is already a team of six Chinese women who are preparing for their expedition Furthermore, all climbers will be a part of a team led by Yarla Shampo Expeditions, which is the only authorized operator from China that can lead clients on the mountain, with the vast majority of other operators coming from Nepal or western countries. Supposedly, Yarla Shampo already has 26 Chinese alpinists signed up for the expedition.

This move comes as China reports no new coronavirus cases across the country for the first time in about three months. The country is reportedly slowly getting back to normal, although the process has taken a lot of effort and sacrifice. Meanwhile, Europe and the U.S. are only now starting to come to grips with the impact of the virus, which has now infected more than 250,000 people worldwide and claimed the lives of over 10,000 of them. In China however, things seem to be more under control, and climbers won’t even be required to stay in quarantine for 14 days prior to heading to the mountain.

Just a few days after China closed the North Side of Everest, Nepal followed suit on the South Side as well, limiting the number of people visiting the world’s highest peak this year. In China however, there is a growing number of climbers who are looking to attempt Everest each year, with many crossing the border into Nepal to make the climb. This year, that won’t be an option, and it could open the doors for more operators in China to come to the forefront. If the season goes well, Nepal could see few Chinese nationals climbing from the South Side in the future, although it is far too early for that to be determined.

It now appears that there will at least be a small group of alpinists on Everest this spring. Whether or not we’ll get any updates on their progress remains to be seen. It should be a very quiet season on the mountain either way, hopefully making it a safe and successful one.

Kraig Becker