China closes Everest routes, climbers everywhere weep

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Mountaineers planning on launching a summit bid for Everest via the Chinese side received sour news Monday, as China announced that they will close their side of the mountain until May 10. Because of the hefty amount of time needed for acclimatization and infrastructure, China’s ruling has effectively eliminated the chance for anyone to summit the mountain during the optimal spring season. Even worse, several expeditions have already paid for porters, permits, hotels, staff, and other expenses. I’m guessing a lot of those purchases are nonrefundable.

China reportedly decided to suspend climbing group visas until May 10 because they plan to take the Olympic torch to the summit, and they don’t really want to wait in line for the ladder at the Second Step. In addition to clearing the route for the torch, the Chinese are also nervous about “Free Tibet” demonstrations that could happen during Beijing’s Olympic year. China also reportedly tried to convince Nepal to shut down their side of the mountain, but they didn’t budge.

This is a huge bummer for the approximately 1,000 or so climbers who planned to try to bag the big one via the Northeast ridge route this year. Those who can afford it may try and move to tackle the Southeast route, but that could put even more strain on the Nepali side, which has already issued 70 group permits for this spring. Cho-Oyu is also included in China’s mountaineering ban.

Chinese officials in Tibet made the announcement with this terse, poorly translated memo:

“Dear Clients:

Concern of heavy climbing activities, crowded climbing routes and increasing environmental pressures will cause potential safety problems in Qomolangma areas (included Mt. Cho-Oyu) in this spring season, the limited capacity of reception in addition, we are not ability to accept your expedition, so please postponed your climbing project to after 10th May. For this please accept our deeply regret. For other peaks, including Shisapangma will accordance with the normal operation, without any limitation on the time.

China Tibet Mountaineering Association”

Check out the official doc by clicking on it here.

— Ted Alvarez

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