In what climbers say is an attempt to send a positive message to the world that Nepal’s mountains are a safe destination, a seven member all-Nepali expedition is all set to become the first to climb a Himalayan peak this season.
Even while 48 of Nepal’s 77 districts are under strict lockdown, and with the novel coronavirus surging in Kathmandu Valley and the country, the Nepal Tourism Recovery Expedition 2020 is attempting to climb Mt Baruntse (7,129m) this autumn season.
Said expedition leader Dawa Steven Sherpa: “We felt that we Sherpas had to do something to send a positive message about Nepal to the world. The mountains are here, we are here. So why not climb, since that is what we do.”
Although not an eight-thousander, Baruntse is regarded as a difficult mountain because of its steep and icy south face. It was first climbed in 1954 by two New Zealanders of an expedition led by Edmund Hillary, a year after he climbed Mt Everest with Tenzing Norgay.
The expedition will be flying to Khumjung and accclimatising on Mera Peak before trekking up the Hongu River to base camp.
All trekking and mountaineering in Nepal has been closed since 24 March, and even expeditions that were already starting to climb Mt Everest and other Himalayan peaks in spring 2020 were ordered off the mountains.
The Ministry of Tourism has also allowed a 18-member Bahrain military expedition from the country’s Royal Guard commanded by Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa to climb Mt Manaslu (8,163m), the world’s eighth highest mountain. The expedition includes three Britons and will arrive on a charter flight in Kathmandu on 15 September, but it has not been issued a climbing permit for Mt Manalsu or the acclimatisation peak, Mt Lobuje.