A group of eight researchers from China finally summited Mount Everest on Wednesday, May 27. One of only two climbing teams on the mountain this year, they were there for a very specific purpose—to take the most accurate measurement to date of the world’s tallest point.
The COVID-19 pandemic nixed the spring climbing season before it got started. China canceled foreign climbing permits from the Tibet side of the mountain in March, and Nepal followed suit for the south side of the peak a day later. However, as China began to control the spread of the disease, the government allowed two groups to make the climb: the surveyors and a commercial expedition run by Chinese outfitter Yarlha Shampo.
The group of surveyors initially planned to make a summit bid on May 12, but weather conditions prevented a team from fixing the rope on the last stage of the route, so they returned to Base Camp. On May 16, expedition leaders decided to make another attempt, with a smaller team that would reach the summit on May 22. However, heavy snows resulting from Cyclone Amphan once again sent the rope-fixing team back to Base Camp this week, scuttling a second try at the top, according to a spokesperson for the Chinese government. It looked like the storm might close the window on this season’s climbing attempts, but a break in the weather finally allowed the surveyors to settle the question of the mountain’s height. For now, anyway.