Of all the risks climbers face when tackling Everest, COVID-19 is the one making headlines, this week with China marking a literal dividing line at the mountain’s summit. There is no word yet how they’ll enforce this border at the top of the world, where wind speeds of more than 100 mph are common and the average stay by climbers is well under an hour.
Nepal is undergoing a wave of COVID-19 cases and China is adamant about keeping its borders secure. Before final ascents are made from China on the northern slope, Tibetan guides have been tasked to establish a line on the summit. It’s unclear how and of what material they’ll mark the line. Climbers reaching the summit from the China side will not be allowed to come in contact with anyone or anything on the Nepal side.
Nepal has issued Everest permits for 408 foreign climbers this year, while China has granted only 38 — 21 Chinese climbers and a separate expedition of 17. Mountaineering expert Ang Tshering Sherpa doesn’t believe the dividing line will serve much of any purpose since the actual summit is such a small place that climbers or teams need to take turns getting their summit picture. “The idea that anyone with coronavirus could even reach the summit is impossible because climbers with any respiratory difficulties will just not be able to reach the altitude,” he told The Associated Press.
Climbers on the mountain we spoke with didn’t seem to take the news of China’s mountaintop COVID line very seriously.
“This is stupid. Will cross the line and flip the bird!” emailed American climber Mark Pattison from base camp. “Will see how it plays out. 😀”
Read Next: Everest Base Camp Sees Its First COVID Case
At top: Everest summit from the southwest side. Photo by Didrik J/CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0.