Hundreds of tourists stranded on Nepal’s high-altitude trails due to coronavirus lockdown


When Nepal’s nation-wide lockdown went into effect early on Wednesday in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, hundreds of tourists were stranded, including some on high altitude trekking trails.

By Friday, 137 tourists had been rescued from different parts of the country, according to a statement posted to the Nepal Tourism Board’s website, but there were still more than 180 tourists still stranded.

In this 2015 file photo, porters rest carrying the load of trekkers making their way back from Everest Base Camp, near Shomare, Nepal. The closure of Mount Everest will have significant financial ramifications for the local Sherpas, cooks, porters and other personnel who make their living during this short climbing window.

Tashi Sherpa

In this 2015 file photo, porters rest carrying the load of trekkers making their way back from Everest Base Camp, near Shomare, Nepal. The closure of Mount Everest will have significant financial ramifications for the local Sherpas, cooks, porters and other personnel who make their living during this short climbing window.

“All the stranded tourists will be rescued, kept safely for self isolation and facilitated for their safe journey back home,” Yogesh Bhattarai, Hon Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, said in the statement.

The Nepal Tourism Board has set up a “Stranded in Nepal” website, Twitter, and WhatsApp for those stuck to keep in touch and relay information about their conditions and needs.

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Nepal is famous for its mountain peaks. Within its borders are eight of the 10 highest peaks in the world, including Mount Everest. The Nepal Tourism Board touts the nation as a “mountaineer’s paradise.” There are 326 additional mountains in the nation and almost one third of the country sits at a high altitude, above 3500m. As such, Nepal is a prime tourism spot for adventure-seekers.

According to the tourism board’s site the infrastructure for some mountain areas are well developed with access base camps. However, there are also more remote areas where it’s difficult to reach trekkers in distress.

In this file photo from 2015, porters with supplies for trekkers head towards Namche, in Zamphute, a village in Nepal.

Tashi Sherpa/AP

In this file photo from 2015, porters with supplies for trekkers head towards Namche, in Zamphute, a village in Nepal.

“We will leave no stone unturned to locate and rescue our valued tourists for which we solicit support and cooperation from local communities and concerned travel trade companies and associations,” Dhananjay Regmi, CEO of Nepal Tourism Board said in the statement.

Earlier in the month, Nepal suspended climbing permits for Mt. Everest, effectively shuttering the more than 29,000-foot mountain that sits between Nepal and Tibet for the popular spring climbing season.

Surendra Thapa, an official with Nepal’s Department of Tourism, said the decision to shut down the climbing season was a precautionary measure as countries around the world combat the spread of the new virus that causes covd-19.

Rescued trekking guides sit in a bus waiting to go back home at the Tribhuvan domestic airport in Kathmandu, Nepa.

Niranjan Shrestha/AP

Rescued trekking guides sit in a bus waiting to go back home at the Tribhuvan domestic airport in Kathmandu, Nepa.

“Breathing is already a challenge at high altitudes, so an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, a severe respiratory disease, among the climbers would be particularly devastating,” Furtenbach Adventures, an expedition company, said in a statement.

USA TODAY has reached out to the Nepal Tourism Board.

– USA Today