A Chinese survey team on Wednesday became the first and perhaps only group to climb Mt. Everest this year, part of a project to remeasure the exact height of the world’s tallest mountain.
The ascent, reported by Chinese state media, comes after both China and Nepal canceled the spring climbing season on the mountain that straddles their border in a bid to prevent the new coronavirus from spreading among expedition teams that typically live for weeks in tightly packed camps with little access to emergency medical help.
That could make the Chinese survey team the only people this year to reach the peak of Everest, which has seen growing crowds of climbers and mounds of accumulated garbage in recent years as commercial operations make it easier to scale the mountain.
A 53-member team from China’s Ministry of National Resources has been conducting scientific work on Everest since early March. China’s network of Beidou satellites is being used in the survey to determine the mountain’s current height and natural resources, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Data on snow depth, weather and wind speed is also being measured to aid in glacier monitoring and ecological protection, it said.
China has conducted six major surveys of the mountain, known in China as Qomolangma, since the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949. It’s height was registered at 8,848.13 meters (29,029 feet) in 1975 and 8,844.43 meters (29,017 feet) in 2005.
China has also taken advantage of the lack of climbers to collect garbage from Everest and other popular climbing peaks, the report said.