News for Everest climbers just went from bad to abysmal, as Nepal just announced they will join China in closing routes up the world's highest peak from May 1-10. There are only two standard routes to the top for most Everest climbers — the Southern Ridge from Nepal and the Northern Ridge from Tibet — and now both are officially closed.
As previously reported, closing the mountain until May 10 jeopardizes most teams on the mountain, who need that time for preparation and acclimatization during the narrow window for optimal spring climbing conditions. Some teams who had been stymied on the Chinese side scrambled to move operations to Nepal, but those efforts would now appear to have been in vain. Nepal’s tourism minister, Prithvi Subba Gurung, spoke briefly with the NY Times via telephone:
“Expedition teams will not be allowed to ascend Mount Everest from the base camp,” on the Nepali side, he said. “They are requesting us, the government of Nepal, to be very careful on this side,” he said of the authorities in Beijing.
Reportedly, China shut down their routes up Everest to both clear space for a team taking the Olympic torch to the summit and to divert attention away from Tibet, where they hope to quell pro-Tibetan demonstrations. Chinese police clashed with 1,000 pro-Tibet demonstrators this week and detained Buddhist monks.
All in all, it's been a rough week for mountaineers and human rights advocates alike. — Ted Alvarez