A Chinese team of climbers have been the first group to summit Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft), since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The team are the only group of climbers scheduled to ascend the mountain this climbing season. The group scaled the mountain’s north side.
Foreigners usually pay a minimum of $30,000 USD to summit the mountain, with routes up its treacherous sides becoming notorious in recent years for ‘traffic jams’ and climber deaths. Over 300 people are reported to have died climbing Mount Everest so far, with 11 people meeting their end in 2019 alone. There are estimated to be over 100 bodies left on the mountain, with more appearing each year with melting ice.
Following the coronavirus global pandemic, China decided on March 11 to suspend all climbing activities on the Tibetian side of the mountain. Shortly after Nepal decided to honour and support the decision, closing their side of the mountain also. The combination of decisions to close the mountain entirely is the first time it has returned to its natural state since 2015, when it closed following a series of earthquakes that devastated the region. By all accounts, no human set foot on the mountain from this time for two months, until late May when the group of Chinese climbers finally reached the top of Mount Everest on May 27.
Despite the terrible and ongoing tragedy of the coronavirus and its political, economic and public health fallouts, there have been some environmental positives noted throughout the world. From reduced air pollution, clear water running through Venice or the sound of birds in the streets again, the reduction of human contact with nature undoubtedly gave a small moment for the planet to breathe. Our next challenge however will be to see how we deal with the environmental impact of the medical waste produced by the coronavirus.