Last week I reported that China had taken steps to close Tibet from the outside once again as the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama going into exile grew near. That anniversary takes place in March, and the country is bracing for another round of protests like the ones that took place in the spring last year. Several of those turned violent when the Chinese sent paramilitary police units to crack down on the Tibetans.
When I wrote that story last week, I speculated on what would become of the spring climbing season on Everest’s North Side. If Tibet’s borders were closed for any length of time, that would mean that climbers wouldn’t have access to the mountain. Today, ExWeb says that they’ve been told that access will be restricted until April 1st, but if there are violent political uprisings or ongoing demonstrations, the Chinese reserve the right to keep the borders closed, and will likely shutdown access to Tibet’s other mountains, such as Cho Oyu. In other words, we’d have a repeat of last year, with no teams climbing from the North Side.
On the other hand, if the travel ban is lifted on April 1st as reported, climbers could attempt to summit from the Tibetan side, but at this point, most teams can’t take that chance, and as Alan Arnette is reporting on his Everest 2009 page, those planning to climb on the North Side have already begun to change their plans and shifted to the South. That would likely leave the North Side all but deserted at this point regardless if it is open or not. There would probably be a couple of independent climbers giving it a go, and the two announced attempts at making a South to North traverse could move ahead as planned, but other than that, it’s beginning to look like the North Side will be very quiet once again in 2009.
It’s hard to believe that we’re just a month away from the 2009 season getting underway. In just a few weeks, mountaineers will be packing their gear and preparing to leave for Kathmandu. Has it really been almost a year already?
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