A group of Chinese mountaineers has begun an expedition on Mount Everest as China limped back to normalcy after the coronavirus outbreak. The site, however, remains closed to foreign climbers. The highest peak of the world stands on the border of China and Nepal and can be climbed from both sides. China has closed its side to foreign climbers while Nepal has cancelled all expeditions in response to COVID-19.
Only Chinese climbers are permitted this spring season because of the pandemic, operators told the BBC.
China has suspended foreign expeditions on the north side of 8,848-meter Mount Everest in Tibet during the spring climbing season of 2020 due to the global spread of the coronavirus.
The Tibet Mountaineering Association (TMA) announced during the second week of March that while China has made great progress in containing the coronavirus disease, its rapid global spread still brings uncertainty and danger.
If a climber were infected, the high altitude and rough terrain on Mt Everest knowns as Mt Qomolangma in Tibetan languages would make it difficult to provide appropriate treatment, the association said.
More than two dozen Chinese climbers tackling Mount Everest are expected to reach the advanced base camp at an altitude of 6,450 metres (four miles) on Friday, expedition operators in touch with the China Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) said.
Mountaineering record-keepers say that if the climbers make it to the summit, it would be a very rare case of only Chinese climbers at the peak.
"In Spring 1960, only the Chinese reached the summit. The Indians tried, but failed," said Richard Salisbury, with the Himalayan Database, an organisation that keeps records of all expeditions in the Himalayas.
Western expedition operators said China did not allow them to climb this spring season due to fears over a new outbreak of the virus, the BBC report said.
The coronavirus pandemic had first emerged in central China three months ago, killing around 3,300 people in the country.
China says it has now all but stopped the spread of the disease and the authorities have started to allow some access to Wuhan, the city in Hubei province where the outbreak began.