Nepal Looks Ahead to 2020 Fall Himalayan Climbing Season

Plans for the fall 2020 climbing season in the Himalaya look like they’re starting to take shape. While we’re still a couple of months away from the traditional start of the season, Nepali operators eager to get back to business have begun announcing plans for the months ahead. That includes organizing expeditions to the 8000 meter peaks, most of which have remained empty so far this year. But as the pandemic lockdown begins to ease across Nepal, and international air travel is set to resume on August 1, the hope is that travelers will return to the big mountains, bringing a much needed influx of business along with them.

As with most of the rest of the world, Nepal has been shutdown for the past three months as it has dealt with the spread of the coronavirus. That included closing Mt. Everest for the spring season, a time when the mountain is typically extremely busy. This closure has hit the country extremely hard, leaving tens of thousand of people without work in an economy that is already fragile. Many Nepalis work directly in the tourism industry or in one of its subsidiaries, so with travel shutdown there as been little work. There is still hope that the fall climbing and trekking seasons can be salvaged however, averting further disaster.

One of the first companies to announce fall climbing expeditions is none other than Imagine Nepal. The company’s founder, Mingma G, posted an update to his Facebook page a few days back declaring: “We are now taking booking for Manaslu 8163m and Dhaulagiri 8176m. Both the mountains are guaranteed to run so anyone willing to go Dhaulagiri and Manaslu are welcome to join our team. ” Of particular interest is that these expeditions are “guaranteed to run,” meaning Mingma is pretty confident that these climbs are going to take place. Whether or not anyone shows up to take part remains to be seen.

Imagine is the first company I’ve seen to officially go on the record as having expeditions planned for the autumn, although others will likely soon follow suit. It’ll be interesting to see just how many of them are Nepali companies and how many are western outfitters. Both are desperate to get back to business I’m sure, although the Nepalis are probably even more so.

With the summer Karakoram season in serious doubt and the fall Himalayan season still murky, the question remains. Would you be ready to go climb an 8000 meter peak by September of this year? Considering the current situation here in the U.S., I’m not sure I’d be ready to travel by then.

3 thoughts on “Nepal Looks Ahead to 2020 Fall Himalayan Climbing Season”

  1. We are still planning to go in October for a trekking/climbing trip to Mera peak, will be there if flights are not cancelled. Training in progress.

  2. Here is an update from someone not he ground in Nepal:

    Jun. 23, 2020, 10:42 p.m.

    I will try to summarize some of the latest information here. I too am in Pokhara, but have a team of staff members and colleagues in KTM, Palpa, and other areas.

    COVID SITUATION:

    For the first 60+ days, Nepal maintained active testing and fewer than 500 cases in 4 isolated areas. Due to the arrival of 300,000+ migrant workers returning home from India, in the last 30 days the number has increased to over 10,000 cases. It’s now in all but 2 of the 77 districts of Nepal.

    The number of cases has now surpassed the country’s ability to keep up with testing, tracing, or treatment. The backlog of tests is in the thousands with some test samples waiting 2-3 weeks before they are discarded without having been processed. There are 165,000 people in government quarantines along the border, where most cases are transmitted. Many are asked to leave before their quarantine time is up, and without a second test. Once those people arrive in their home villages, they are not required to quarantine. The spread of the virus is expected to reach 40,000 to 60,000 cases by September.

    Lockdown / Restrictions / Flights:

    The lockdown from March 24 was extremely strict, and while it was relaxed a week ago, the bulk of the country is still closed. If not voluntarily to keep the virus slowed, because there are no tourists or people to support those businesses. The lockdown is also rumored to go back into official enforcement this week.

    The airport closure remains a high point of uncertainty. The government has announced a likely opening of August 1, but the first two months of flights will be repatriation flights, and flights to service business owners, students, and other non-tourists who need to get in/out.

    All hotel services are effectively closed indefinitely. Same for most restaurants. Hotels must have special permits to accept guests. As many as 4,000 hotels have closed with no indication they will reopen in 2020.

    The Department of Immigration has been a major source of frustration for the thousands of tourists still here in lockdown. Communications have been terrible. If tourists were somehow permitted to come in the fall, it’s very likely they will be required to quarantine on arrival with other very difficult visa requirements to obtain.

    Outlook for fall travel

    I’ve said it since April. With each passing week I’m more convinced than ever, nothing in Nepal indicates fall travel will be possible. That’s taking into consideration: The virus itself. The increasing government restrictions. The closure of the entire service industry and economy. The lack of desire on the part of the Nepali people to compound their problems with an influx of tourists.

    Spring 2021. That’s most likely the best bet for an EARLY start to rebuilding.

Comments are closed.