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Big mountain climbers got plenty riled earlier this year when the Chinese government shortened the Everest climbing season so their Olympic torch team could get to the top, and when they convinced Nepal to follow suit, Everest watchers looked into their crystal crampons and foretold of doom to come. That didn’t really happen: The Olympic team summited with little incident, a record number of climbers topped out on Everest, and only one climber died.
Now, China looks to exercise a few Everest restrictions once more, but this time for reported environmental reasons. According to Chinese state-run media (is there any other kind?) Xinhua, the government plans to close Everest for the second half of 2009 to make way for a massive cleanup operation.
Zhang Yongze, the environmental protection chief in the Tibetan regional government, said China would start closing down access to the mountain in the second half of 2009, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
“Our target is to keep even more people from abusing Mount Everest.”
In addition to eliminating the waste left by expeditions, the Chinese hope to stop the retreat of the Rongbuk Glacier at the base of Everest, which has melted and lost over 150 meters of its length. They’ve already banned vehicles from driving up to base camp, as thousands of tourists do a year.
The restrictions are unlikely to affect most climbers, since most expeditions are launched in late spring in the first half of the year. But any ultra-hard men or women hoping to summit in fall or winter ’09 might be out of luck.
— Ted Alvarez