A Norwegian climber, Erlend Ness, hoping to summit Everest confirmed Thursday that he has tested positive for Covid-19. The pandemic wiped out last year’s season but Nepal has eased quarantine rules in an effort to attract more climbers despite the difficulties of treating them if they contract the virus.
Ness was evacuated from the slopes by helicopter and taken to a hospital in the Nepali capital Kathmandu after spending time at Everest base camp. Norwegian broadcaster NRK, which interviewed him, reported that a Sherpa in his party had also tested positive. “I really hope that none of the others get infected with corona high up in the mountains. It is impossible to evacuate people with a helicopter when they’re above 8,000 metres,” Ness told NRK. Breathing is already difficult at high altitudes so any outbreak of disease among climbers presents major health risks. “The plan was to get fast high up in the mountains to make sure that we wouldn’t get infected… I’ve been unlucky and I could have done more by myself when it comes to sanitary precautions,” Ness added.
One hospital in Kathmandu confirmed it had taken in patients from Everest who had contracted coronavirus but could not give a number. Nepal has issued 377 permits this year to climb the mountain, and the final number is expected to exceed the 381 handed out in 2019.