Everest 2008: Will Nepal Close The South Side Too?

Mount Everest from Rombok Gompa, Tibet
After Monday’s announcement that the Chinese would close the North Side of Everest until May 10th there was some speculation that they had asked Nepal to do the same on the South Side. The word at the time was that Nepal politely declined.

Now several sites, including The Adventurist and Everest News are speculating that Nepal may indeed have agreed to hold teams from the summit until after May 10th as well. Jason’s article at The Adventurist cites this article from the Tacoma News Tribune in which Eric Simonson, co-owner of International Mountain Guides, is quoted as saying that his contacts in Nepal are hinting that the country will compromise, and allow teams to acclimatize, establish their high camps, and do everything they can on the mountain, except go for the summit.

It seems that until May 10th, the summit is the sole property of the Chinese Olympic Torch Team. The Chinese Government is so focused on making a big public splash with the Torch on the summit that they are willing to push everyone else out of the way in order to get there. I know the Olympics are their big coming out party, and it’s their chance to show the World how far they’ve come. When I was there back in the Summer of 2002 they were already planning and making preparations for the event. They want to do it big and flashy.

The question I have at this point is what’s in it for Nepal? What incentive do they have to keep the teams on their side of the mountain back from the summit until after May 10th? Is China sending them a big economic care package to do so? Is Nepal afraid of becoming the Nepalese Autonomous Region? I’d certainly be interested in hearing why they would elect to do this.

Meanwhile, Alan Arnette announced today that his team is still planning on climbing the Hill this season, even if things are in a current state of flux. His post does a good job of summing up the problems here, which in a nutshell are these: It takes five weeks to establish the high camps and acclimatize. On a typical schedule that puts you right at May 10th. How do you do those things if you can’t be on the mountain?

As I said before, it’s certainly going to be an interesting year in the Himalaya.

Kraig Becker

3 thoughts on “Everest 2008: Will Nepal Close The South Side Too?”

  1. I’m not really sure what to say about this other than I think it’s ridiculous. I understand that China wants to make an impression for this year’s Olympics but this has gotten a bit extreme. I worry what will happen after May 10 when the mountain does open up and there’s a huge traffic jam on the north side or on the south when teams move there. I just hope there isn’t a major storm.

  2. I have the same fears Azzfan. A major storm on the South Side could be devastating. The traffic jams will be awful and I can’t imagine what the camps will be like either.

    I fear we could be in for a disaster if something goes wrong. And all because the Chinese want to make a media circus out of getting the torch to the top.

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