Do you think the outdoor travel industry is still stalling due to COVID-19? Think again
You have decided to climb one of the highest mountains in the world comes with a lot of questions. Are borders open? How do I get a permit? Will I Make It However, with a global pandemic, these travel questions get more complicated. Fortunately, we spoke to an international mountaineering guide for answers.
There is good news on the horizon: Many borders are openand the number of western climbers on peaks abroad increasing. Now may be the best time to climb. Madison Mountaineering’s Garrett Madison, a ten-time Everest climber and guide since 1999, is here to give us some insight into why.
Mountaineering guide: climbing is open
Madison has climbed Everest, K2, Mt. Rainier, Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Aconcagua, Denali and more. So he knows a thing or two about crossing borders and high-peak expeditions.
It is currently running Madison mountaineering, a professional tour guide service that runs expeditions on all seven continents. And his team has led several international trips abroad despite COVID.
GearJunkie: The biggest question most people have is: ONEAre the borders open?
Garrett Madison: Yes, for climbing in Nepal (Everest, Ama Dablam etc.), Pakistan (K2) and Tanzania (Mt Kilimanjaro) the countries are open. Of course, there are some additional requirements, such as proof of a negative COVID test.
What can people expect when traveling?
Empty airports and empty planes. Qatar Airways is currently the only airline that still operates its international routes. So we all flew with Qatar. The airline issues face protection to passengers to be worn when traveling. Otherwise everything is pretty “normal”.
Our operating capacity for international activities is currently around 15%. For domestic operations, we were almost at full capacity when the mountains in Washington State opened. [The numbers] are about the same for the industry.
What else should travelers expect besides the typical equipment list?
Bring extra cash as most businesses prefer cash over credit cards.
Photo credit: Garrett Madison.
Can you give readers an example of trips you’ve recently been on and whether the experience was any different?
We took trips in Washington this summer – to Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and Mount Shuksan. Then we did some Kilimanjaro trips in Tanzania and recently a trip to Nepal for Ama Dablam. The main changes were that we didn’t see a lot of tourists or other climbers – often we were the only team there.
We have trips to Chile and Ecuador in the next few months. [And] I’m really looking forward to Everest next spring. Last spring nobody could go because Nepal and China closed shortly before the start of the season. I didn’t know how much I would miss it.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing people climbing after COVID-19?
The biggest challenge right now is that climbers don’t know what to expect when they get home after the expedition. Depending on where people live and work, some local governments or employers may need to be quarantined for two weeks after each international trip. When [you] Come home from a trip and need to quarantine yourself at home. It is a different life than what you lived in the mountains.
Climbing in Nepal: Know Before You Go
Follow the old ski proverb: “Know before you go.” Plan ahead. Now is not the time to get on a plane and give it wings. Currently the only way for a tourist is come to Nepal a visa must be obtained on arrival.
“This can only be obtained from the trekking / climbing agency that pre-processed your permit,” Madison said. “It is therefore important to plan ahead, process all permits and write letters so that you can enter the country at that time [you choose]. ”
Additionally, travelers entering Nepal will need COVID travel insurance (which Madison says can be difficult to find), hotel confirmations, and evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of arrival. There are similar measures in other countries.
One big difference before and after the pandemic is that you need your climbing permit for Nepal in advance. Apart from a little extra planning, the trip to Nepal for climbing will be similar to what it was before.
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Expeditions 101 (Post-COVID): Why Is Now The Time To Travel?
Empty planes and empty mountains with just more planning and precautions – Madison makes a pretty compelling argument as to why now is the time to climb. Here are some of Madison’s reasons American climbers should consider travel:
- These iconic mountains are almost completely deserted. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience these magical places with hardly anyone else.
- Traveling abroad is generally very safe and airlines take the necessary precautions. [That being said, if you have preexisting conditions or health concerns, waiting to travel may be a better idea.]
- If we’ve learned anything from COVID-19, life is uncertain: “Why wait to make your dreams, goals and aspirations come true?” Madison posed.
- “There is generally no need to wear a mask in the mountains, so it’s a refreshing break,” said Madison. “Inside we still wear masks, but outside in the mountains we get a temporary escape.” Recently, Madison and his group spent several weeks at Ama Dablam in Nepal, away from the crowds, people and masked mandates.
- With most locations in the U.S. on lockdown mode, traveling to the mountains can be a much-needed change.
Conclusion: Everest and others are waiting for you. And the peaks shouldn’t be overcrowded. Though you might come across an opportunistic leader like Garrett Madison at the top.
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