After a long and difficult season, the curtain now looks like it is set to fall on Mt. Everest for 2020. With both sides of the mountain closed down due to the coronavirus, it has been an unusual spring on the world’s highest peak. And while the South Side has remained completely quiet, the North Side in Tibet saw just two teams on its slopes this year. One of those was a group of Chinese surveyors sent to remeasure the height of Everest, while the other was a commercial squad made up entirely of Chinese nationals. Over the past few days, these teams have completed their expedition, with the surveyors topping out yesterday, and the rest of the climbers following suit today.
It has been difficult getting any updates on the whereabouts of the teams all season long, but one of the more reliable sources of information has been Nepali Sherpa Mingma G. from Imagine Nepal. Mingma is connected with some of the workers on the squad and has received updates from time to time over the past few months. This morning, he reports that 14 Chinese clients and 21 Tibetan support crew reached the summit of Everest. Furthermore, the youngest member of the team was just 16 years old. All of the climbers are reportedly safe and have descended back to Camp 4 for a bit of rest. They should head back down to BC tomorrow.
With 35 summits today and an additional 10 yesterday from the survey team, plus six that were a part of rope fixing squad on Tuesday, the total number of summits on Everest for spring 2020 now stands at 51. That number isn’t likely to go much higher, unless there are a few climbers that we don’t know about waiting in the wings. Right now, this is everyone that has been on the admittedly limited radar so far this season, although there could be an additional straggler or two with the commercial team who will make a late summit push. This contrasts sharply to last season, when more than 900 people reach the top of Everest, with the vast majority of those coming from the South Side in Tibet.
With the Everest climbing season now over—at least for the spring—we’ll soon turn our attention to the Karakoram. By most accounts, that season is pretty much already cancelled, although there may still be an independent team or two heading to K2, Broad Peak, or Nanga Parbat. At the moment, no one has announced their intentions of climbing in Pakistan this summer however, as the country remains in the grip of the virus as well. The fall season in the Himalaya may yet be salvaged, although we’ll have to wait a few more months to see if things improve. Nepal is starting to see an uptick in the number of infected people, so a lockdown may continue for sometime yet.
Congrats to everyone who successfully summited Everest over the past few days. Get down safely and get home to your friends and family. You’ve earned a break after an exceptionally long season.