Coronavirus Reaches Mount Everest for First Time

In this photograph taken on April 25, 2018, trekkers and porters gather at Everest Base Camp, some 140km northeast of the Nepali capital Kathmandu. - Hundreds of adventurers have been granted permits to climb Mount Everest, officials said April 26, 2018, foreshadowing another bumper year despite concerns about overcrowding on …
PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP via Getty Images

A Norwegian mountain climber stationed at Mt. Everest’s south basecamp in Nepal has tested positive for the Chinese coronavirus, marking the first official case of the disease on the world’s tallest mountain, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported Thursday.

Climber Erlend Ness was attempting to summit Mt. Everest last week when he fell ill and was evacuated from the mountain. Health authorities airlifted Ness to a hospital in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, where he subsequently tested positive for the Chinese coronavirus.

“My diagnosis is Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus],” Ness told AFP in a Facebook message on April 22. “I’m doing ok now. … The hospital is taking care (of me).”

Ness was “originally thought to be suffering from high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE)” but tested positive for the Chinese coronavirus upon arrival at a hospital in Kathmandu, according to the U.S. magazine Outside. The publication first reported on the climber’s coronavirus infection, then unconfirmed, on April 20, citing an unidentified source at Mt. Everest’s south basecamp.

Norwegian broadcaster NRK interviewed Ness this week, reporting that “a sherpa in his party had also tested positive.”

“I really hope that none of the others get infected with corona high up in the mountains. It is impossible to evacuate people with a helicopter when they’re above 8,000 meters,” Ness told NRK.

Deutsche Welle alluded to the possibility of additional coronavirus infections on Mt. Everest while reporting on Ness’s case on April 22.

“The infected climber is a Norwegian, who has said he believes he may have contracted the virus while trekking to the base camp. Other reports indicate that as many as three climbers may have been infected,” the German state broadcaster wrote.

Kathmandu’s CIWEC Hospital confirmed to AFP on April 22 it had taken in more than one patient from Mt. Everest “who had contracted coronavirus but could not give a number.”

“I can’t share the details but some evacuated from Everest have tested positive,” Prativa Pandey, the hospital’s medical director told AFP.

Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism described the reports of the alleged coronavirus infections on Mt. Everest as “rumors” this week and said it was investigating the claims. Mira Acharya, a spokeswoman for the Ministry, said it had “so far not received any reports of Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] among climbers.”

“A person was evacuated on April 15 but we were informed that he is suffering from pneumonia and is being treated in isolation. That is all the information we have received,” she said.

Mt. Everest authorities were forced to cancel last year’s climbing season on the mountain because of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.

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