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Icelandic mountaineers scale Everest despite COVID-19 infection

KATHMANDU: Two Icelanders managed to climb Mount Everest despite having contracted coronavirus and even though Nepalese authorities insisted there have been no virus cases on the world’s highest peak.

The two climbers, Sigurdur Sveinsson and Heimir Hallgrimsson, began coughing and suspected they had caught the virus as they reached around 7,000 metres (about 23,000 feet), they wrote in a message in which they described their perilous descent to base camp.

“At this time and this place, there was no way to get tested,” the pair wrote on the website of Umhyggja, an Icelandic aid organisation that helps children with long-term illnesses and for which the pair were raising funds.

The two had tested negative for the virus before beginning their ascent. “Since we were feeling fine then, we saw no reason to change our plans,” they said. The pair reached the summit, at 8,849 metres on Monday at 4:30 am local time (Sunday at 2245 GMT).

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“During the descent, we both began to suffer from increasing fatigue, coughs and discomfort,” they said. “When we left Camp 2, it was clear that Siggi’s (Sigurdur’s) lungs were very bad and we had to resort to oxygen.”

Despite the difficulties, they managed to reach base camp on Wednesday, where tests confirmed they were infected with Covid-19.

In recent weeks, more than 30 climbers have been evacuated from base camp due to illness. Other than the Icelanders, at least three other climbers have said that they have been infected with COVID-19. The total number of cases is not known. However, Nepal officials have denied that there have been any cases of the virus on Everest.

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