On Friday, Mount Everest saw its first summits of 2021, along with a new record: Kami Rita Sherpa summited for the 25th time, breaking his own record for most ascents. He was leading a rope-fixing team of 11 Sherpas, according to the Nepalese guide company Seven Summit Treks.
Kami Rita, 52, is from the Himalayan village of Thame and first summited Everest in 1994 at 24 years old. He has summited four other 8,000-meter peaks—K2, Lhotse, Manaslu, and Cho Oyu—for a record 33 summits of 8,000-meter peaks in his lifetime, according to the Himalayan Database. He’s expected to log one more Everest summit this season while leading commercial climbers, a double-summit-season feat he’s accomplished on five other occasions.
With the ropes fixed from Base Camp to the peak, commercial teams quickly followed. Yesterday, the five-member Bahrain Royal Guard became the first non-Sherpa group to summit this year, a team that included Prince Sheikh Mohammed Hamad Mohammed Al Khalifa and 19-year-old Shehroze Kashif, the youngest Pakistani to summit Everest. Kenton Cool, an English mountaineer, set a UK record of 15 Everest summits, tying him with American Dave Hahn for most non-Sherpa summits.
With continued good weather, more of the over 300 climbers waiting in Base Camp are expected to summit this week. This year Nepal issued a record 408 permits to foreigners, but many have left due to the coronavirus. Last week the BBC reported that there were 17 hospitalized COVID patients in Kathmandu whose cases originated at Base Camp, but the true number of cases in the region resulting from the Base Camp outbreak is likely much higher.
The spread of COVID in the Everest climbing community has slowed in the past ten days, with no new cases reported at Base Camp. Meanwhile, on Dhaulagiri, another 8,000-meter Himalayan peak, over 25 people have been evacuated after testing positive for the virus.
At the end of last week, the Nepalese government closed the airport to all flights but two a day to India, stranding many visitors. However, the government also announced that it would try to facilitate climbers’ departures from Nepal. It continues to deny that the virus has infected climbers on Everest and issued a statement asking that the media not “publish stories without verification as it could terrorize the mountaineers as well as their family members.” Meanwhile, The New York Times reported today that relief groups in Nepal are asking climbers to donate their used oxygen cylinders to help fill gaps created by medical supply shortages as the nation grapples with surging COVID cases.