After shutting down all mountain climbing, Nepal invites hikers back this fall in an attempt to salvage its tourism economy.

By Rachel Chang
August 04, 2020
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The world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, will reopen to trekkers this fall after mountain climbing in Nepal was shut down in March because of coronavirus concerns. The Asian nation announced on July 30 that it would start issuing permits for the peak, as well as its other Himalayan mountains, in time for the autumn climbing season from September to November.

The announcement comes as the country of 28 million, which has had 20,750 confirmed cases and 57 deaths, hit a record high of 11,992 cases in June and record high of 12 deaths for the week of July 26 to August 1, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Nepal — which is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks — just lifted its nationwide lockdown on July 21 and also announced on July 30 that hotels and restaurants could reopen with proper precautions, while casinos, spas, salons, and gyms remain closed. International and domestic flights will resume Aug. 17.

Credit: Getty Images

With the lack of a need for trekking services during the popular months of April and May, an estimated 200,000 sherpas, guides, and porters lost their jobs, resulting in millions of dollars in losses. In May, 30 foreigners arrived, as opposed to 70,000 the previous year.

Of its 1.2 million annual visitors, a third usually come in the fall, so the country hopes the move will boost the economy.

But local climbing companies still aren’t sure trekkers are ready to return for the major ascents. “Some climbers to smaller mountains may come, but I have my doubts about the big ones,” Kathmandu-based expedition operator Ang Tshering told Reuters.

The opening adds to criticism the government has received in recent years for prioritizing tourism dollars over human lives by issuing too many permits, while the bodies of an estimated 150 of the 300 who have died attempting to climb Everest remain on its slopes.