It does not take long for the first of many helicopter flights to arrive, bringing essential supplies and evacuating climbers with altitude sickness or other ailments. Four climbers have already been evacuated, and three of them have tested positive for Covid-19 in hospital in Kathmandu. Covid-19 attacks the respiratory system, and symptoms are similar to acute mountain sickness, with one exacerbating the other.
Rumours of another lockdown have cast some uncertainty over the season, as reports come in of a massive surge in new cases and fatalities in various parts of Nepal.
High altitude guide Ang Phurba Sherpa is nervous about the pandemic resurgence since it may jeopardise his earnings for another year. But for now, he is happy that the expeditions are back in the Khumbu.
“Expedition months are earning months for most of us who depend on mountaineering business, and last year was a washout,” he says. “It is a dangerous job, but it is our profession. We try to go up and down the Icefall at night to reduce the risk. This is the life of a Sherpa.”