China to suspend foreign expeditions on north side of Mt Qomolangma


Heavy traffic of mountain climbers lining up to stand at the summit of Mt Qomolangma, May 22, 2019. [Photo/VCG]

LHASA - China is to suspend foreign expeditions on the north side of Mt Qomolangma during the spring climbing season of 2020 due to the global spread of COVID-19, the Tibet Mountaineering Association (TMA) confirmed on Thursday.

A TMA announcement acknowledged that while China has made great progress in containing the coronavirus disease, its rapid global spread still brings uncertainty and danger. If a climber were infected, the high altitude and rough terrain on Mt Qomolangma - known in the west as Mt Everest - would make it difficult to provide appropriate treatment.

"To ensure the safety of the climbers and to protect expedition organizers from potential losses, we have to make this decision," said Pema Tinley, deputy director of the TMA.

Climbers, guides and other staff from over 20 countries and regions had filed applications to the TMA before the outbreak of COVID-19. TMA officials say they had asked for advice from all expedition organizers before making their decision.

"While I am saddened for all the hard work our members, guides, sherpa, local staff, partners and office have put in, and that they and we won't get to test ourselves on the highest playground in the world this year, I am in agreement with China's decision. It is responsible," Adrian Ballinger, climber and founder of Alpenglow Expeditions, wrote on his Instagram account, adding that climbing a mountain is not currently worth the transmission risk in the base camps, nor upon returning home.