The family of a Wanaka-based documentary maker who caught Covid-19 while climbing Mt Everest last month is relieved to hear he will be back in New Zealand next week.
Scott Simper (52) had been in Nepal since February and was on his second film shoot, making a documentary about Sherpas on Mt Everest for a Canadian production company, when he caught Covid.
His wife, Wanaka-based mountain guide and former ski and adventure racer Anna Keeling, said her husband believed he caught the virus somewhere between Mt Everest Base Camp and Base Two and was incubating it until he summitted the mountain on May 11.
“This is the third time he has summitted Mt Everest, but he said this was his worst ascent ever in terms of how he felt.
“He’d had an 18-hour day filming above 8000m the whole time. He felt really, really unwell and was just exhausted.”
When he reached Base Camp he was coughing badly, but the doctors there did not test for Covid, Ms Keeling said.
It was not until he returned to Kathmandu that he found out he had Covid.
Her husband was not admitted to hospital, but the staff at the hotel where he was in quarantine were “enormously taking the best care of him that they could, Ms Keeling said.
“The entire country as well as the Kathmandu Valley has been really strapped by Covid, yet the level of compassion he received was extraordinary.”
Ms Keeling was a speaker at the Southern Hemisphere Alpine Conference (SHAC) in Wanaka last week, but at that stage she did not know how or when Mr Simper would be able to leave Kathmandu as he had to test negative first and there were no flights.
On Monday he sent word he had arrived in the US.
Mr Simper, an Emmy award-winning director of photography in film and video, has worked on all seven continents. He specialises in remote documentary-style adventure, natural history, sport and science projects, and is used to working in remote and challenging locations and conditions.
Ms Keeling said due to Covid and border lockdowns her husband had had only one other filming job in the past year.
“I would have preferred he had not taken the jobs [in Nepal], but I am not the boss of him.
“We have a mortgage and expenses, and a tough ski season last year with no Australians compounded issues.
“I am a mountain guide and I have a lot of clients who are New Zealanders, but even so it was not quite enough to make ends meet.
“Scott felt he needed to take it. I kind of wish he hadn’t gone, but I understand why he did,” Ms Keeling said.
Mr Simper’s first filming assignment in Nepal was recording fitness videos with six-time Mt Everest summitter Lydia Bradey on the Mt Everest track in February and March.
Ms Bradey is now in New Zealand and attended the SHAC.
She said she knew Covid was about to “explode” in Nepal because of the porous border with India and she had hoped Mr Simper would not catch it.
“Covid is worse in Nepal now than India. I am really gutted for them,” she said.