KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal is expecting hundreds of foreigners to attempt to scale the highest Himalayan peaks despite the pandemic.

The Department of Tourism in Kathmandu said Wednesday that more than 300 foreigners have expressed interest in climbing Mount Everest this spring.

There’s similar interest for other mountains too, said Mira Acharya, a director at the department.

One Japanese and four Canadians climbers are already trekking their way to the base camps of Mount Manaslu and Mount Nuptse, respectively, Acharya said.

The spring season, which is popular because of favorable weather, began this month. It extends up to the end of May, when weather deteriorates and climbing becomes dangerous.

Those wishing to scale mountains still have to be quarantined in a hotel in the capital and test negative for the coronavirus.

Last March, Nepal canceled the 2020 spring climbing season on the south face of Everest as the COVID-19 pandemic began to creep around the world, following the lead of China, which controls access to the north face in Tibet. In November, Nepal welcomed back climbers who already had secured permits.

At 29,035 feet, the air atop Everest has such low oxygen levels that just being in the area near the summit, let alone climbing, proves lethal for those who cannot reach extra oxygen supplies fast enough.

“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 applauding the decision.

The 2019 spring season was deadly for other reasons: There were 11 deaths on Everest, the highest number of fatalities in four years. The majority of deaths were blamed on a combination of overcrowding, inexperience and poor weather limiting the number of days climbers were able to attempt to summit.

Contributing: Ryan Miller, USA TODAY

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