There was a time when the North Side of Everest was considered to be a free for all, with all kinds of interesting activities going on at base camp. Seems those days are over now though, as this story in the Seattle TImes reports that China has built a large police station at 17,060 feet.
According to the story, the new facility replaces an old trailer, and is more than 19,000 square feet in size. It’ll serve as the home for 20 border police, who will patrol the area in an attempt to cut back on the theft, gambling, and prostitution that has been reported in BC for years. There is also some speculation that the border patrol will also be in the lookout for Tibetans hoping to cross over into Nepal.
As of now, there is still no word on if the Tibetan side of the mountain will be open in the spring, and if China will increase the police presence in the area at that time. There have been some indications that they will once again close the mountain as they did this year for the Olympic Torch climb. In this case, the early speculation is that they will be taking steps to clean up the mountain and protect the environment there.
I’ve heard some stories about some of the criminal activity in base camp in the past. Every year when the climbing season opens, a tent city pops up near base camp where entrepreneurial Tibetans would set up shop to sell all manner of goods and services. Some of those tents would become makeshift pubs and gambling establishments, with other activities taking place as well. The police presence is designed to crack down on these activities, but also watch out for theft, and unsavory profiteers selling off faulty oxygen bottles as well.
If this move makes the area safer for climbers and trekkers, than it’s a good one. If it’s just going to be used to squelch information and intimidate the visitors to Everest, than obviously it’s a bad move. Only time will tell for sure, but I suspect the answer probably lies somewhere in between.
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