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Covid on the increase at Everest Base Camp

As Covid spreads at Everest Base Camp, expeditions have been cancelled. Photo: Deana Zabaldo/Flickr

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Despite making it to Everest Base Camp, Austrian expedition leader Lukas Furtenbach has called off his team’s summit attempt, Outside reports.

Furtenbach had taken numerous precautions this season, including bringing thousands of Covid test kits to Base Camp, and isolating his team, but he decided it wasn’t enough.

“The number of people infected with COVID in the Base Camp is increasing,” he said.

“I didn’t make the decision easy for myself. But to climb above Base Camp with these massively increasing corona numbers and risk the lives of our 20 customers, four mountain guides, and 27 Sherpas carelessly, would be irresponsible.”

It remains to be seen if other companies will follow suit.

“Anyone who becomes infected with Covid at high altitude then develops symptoms and becomes ill and very difficult to help. We do not take this risk, which is why our expedition is stopped immediately,” he said.

Furtenbach’s cancellation further validates New Zealand company Adventure Consultants’ decision to cancel all Nepal expeditions back in February.

“I don’t feel it’s a good thing to go in there now and potentially have clients spread the virus into those communities,” CEO Guy Cotter said.

FMC critical of DOC hut price increase

Federated Mountain Clubs has spoken out again against DOC’s recent hut fee increase, first reported in the May issue of WIlderness.

The price hike saw weekend prices increase for its 11 most popular huts; Crosbies, Powell, Pinnacles (Mt Somers), Woolshed Creek, Sunrise Hut, Waitawheta, Atiwhakatu, Rod Donald, Ōtamahua and Packhorse huts.

“It effectively creates a two-tier system,” FMC president Jan Finlayson told Stuff.

“Higher weekend hut prices will advantage international visitors, who will be able to travel seven days a week when they return, over Kiwis, who are largely confined to weekend travel in the backcountry.”

DOC’s Steve Taylor said the changes were to encourage trampers to leave the weekends free for people who don’t have weekday flexibility.

“We want to see huts being well-used for longer, rather than having all the visitor pressure at weekends and then empty bunks during the week,” he said.

The Backcountry Hut pass price has also increased from $122 per year to $144.

Read the full story from Stuff here.

Christchurch luring tūī back to city

Christchurch is planting hundreds of trees in an attempt to lure tūī back into the city, where they have been absent since the 1970s.

The planting is part of Tūī Corridor project run by the Christchurch Foundation and Meridian Energy, Stuff reports.

Christchurch is the only New Zealand city without tūī, Christchurch Foundation chief executive Amy Carter said.

“We don’t know why tūī died out in Canterbury… it’s the only region in New Zealand where there isn’t a really common population.

“Some breeding pairs were reintroduced to [Banks] Peninsula a number of years ago by the Department of Conservation and the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust, and they’re starting to spread. But what we need is to have more food that they like to eat on this side of the hill, to bring them over from the peninsula.”

Four alpine lizard species discovered in South Island

Four new species of lizards have potentially been discovered after an intensive search of the Southern Alps, RNZ reports.

DOC sent researchers into the remote areas of Fiordland, Mount Aspiring and Nelson Lakes national parks as well as the Hooker/Landsborough Wilderness Area, where two new types of skinks and two new types of geckos were found.

DOC lizard survey project leader Dr Jo Monks said they are awaiting genetic testing results to discern whether the species are new to science.

“If they aren’t new species, it means we have discovered populations of these lizards in places we didn’t know they were, which is great news,” she said.

Appalachian Trail loosens Covid guidance

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has changed it’s Covid guidance just months after urging hikers not to attempt the 3500km trail.
Due to multiple vaccines becoming available and the relaxing of travel restrictions in AT states, the conservancy has declared thru-hiking the trail is considered to be a safer activity.

Additional precautions and vaccinations have been recommended, the conservancy stated on the website.