A 51-person expedition on Mount Everest was abandoned due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the climbing team.
In a statement posted to Facebook on Saturday, Austrian operator Furtenbach Adventures said it ended the expedition immediately because the number of people infected at the base camp was increasing.
Lukas Furtenbach, managing director of Furtenbach Adventures, said it would be “irresponsible” to continuing risking the lives of those on the expedition.
“I didn’t make the decision easy for myself,” he said. “But to climb above base camp with these massively increasing corona numbers and risk the lives of our 20 customers, four mountain guides and 27 Sherpas carelessly would be irresponsible.”
Furtenbach Adventures is believed to be the first operator to cancel a current expedition on the mountain. The operator said the number of people infected at its base camp on Everest had “increased massively.”
Furtenbach said the sudden increase occurred because some teams were not observing precautions and were meeting and holding parties.
“Our team remained isolated the entire time, our doctor did tests regularly, now even daily. But now the point has been reached where we pull the plug,” he said.
Ang Tendi Sherpa, who manages the local agency that obtained the permit, told The New York Times that an American climber and three Sherpa guides were evacuated and hospitalized.
According to Reuters, members of the team of climbers are from America, Norway, Israel, Germany, Austria, Italy, Luxembourg and Romania.
Mira Acharya, the director of Nepal’s tourism department, told the news outlet that she had no information on expeditions that evacuated due to COVID-19.
“Doctors at the base camp said the situation was not as serious as it was reported,” she said. Acharya, who returned from the base camp this week, added “I did not see any terrible situation there.”
Nepal began allowing climbers in April after being shuttered in March 2020 due to COVID-19. According to Reuters, it’s issued a record 408 permit to climbers.