ExWeb has posted a breaking news story that the Chinese have closed the North Side of Everest for the Spring 2008 climbing season until May 10th in order to allow their Olympic Torch Team full access to the mountain and first rights to the summit.
Rumors have been circulating that this could happen for some time, despite denials from the Chinese and Tibetan officials. With the 2008 Summer Games coming to Beijing in August, China is set to pull out all the stops to impress the World. One of their most important, and visible, projects will be taking the Olympic Torch to the summit of Everest. The North Side is sure to be an a media circus, and the Chinese team is likely to be huge and dominant. Make no mistake, this is a very important climb for them, and they don’t want any one else getting in their way.
It should be noted that according to the ExWeb article, the teams scheduled to climb the North Side in this year have been informed that they can come to the mountain on May 10th. But if that’s true, that doesn’t leave them much time to acclimatize and then make a proper bid at the summit. Better equipped and funded expeditions may be able to acclimatize on another mountain before coming to Everest, but it won’t be on Cho Oyu, as apparently it is also closed until May 10th. ExWeb speculates that it’s to quash any “Free Tibet” protests on either mountain, something that could be an embarrassment to the Chinese.
The article further states that the Chinese requested that Nepal also close the South Side until May 10th as well, but that the Nepalese Government refused the request. Considering the amount of money the climbing community brings into Nepal, it’s no surprise that they have moved ahead, business as usual.
So what will the 2008 Everest Season be like? It’s certainly off to an interesting and crazy start. I’m sure there are teams preparing alternate plans, scrambling to get permits for the more expensive South Side, or moving their acclimatization climbs to another mountain until access opens up on Everest. We’re just a few weeks away to teams descending on Kathmandu, and it’s already turning out to be a unique season. Stay tuned!
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