China Closes North Side Everest Base Camp to Trekkers and Tourists

It seems China is getting very serious about its efforts to keep the North Side of Everest clean and safe. Late last week officials in Tibet announced that they would close Everest Base Camp to trekkers and tourists, restricting all non-climbers to an altitude of 5200 meters (17,060 ft). Anyone traveling higher than that will now be requires to have a climbing permit with plans to scale the mountain itself.

The Chinese Mountaineering Association says that about 40,000 people visited North Side Base Camp in 2015, which is about 5000 less than those who visit BC on the South Side of the mountain in Nepal. There is one key difference between the two locations however, as in Tibet travelers can drive to EBC rather than undertaking a ten day hike on the southern side. This has brought a rising number of tourists to the mountain in recent years, which of course means a larger environmental impact too.

Moving forward, trekkers and travelers will now be banned from climbing above the Rongbuk monastery, which is a popular location in its own right. Views from the monastery are still very good and controlling the flow of visitors, as well as the trash they bring, is easier from that place. Only climbers with a valid permit will be allowed beyond that point however.

This is another indicator that China and Tibetan authorities are continuing to focus their attention on maintaining a good environment on Everest. A few weeks back it was announced that the number of climbing permits for the mountain would be capped this year in order to focus on cleaning up Base Camp and above. Authorities have also issued new regulations for Tibet’s 8000 meter peaks with a greater emphasis on maintaining the environment on those mountains, while increasing safety too. All of these moves seem to be aimed at ensuring that Everest –– at least on the North Side –– will become a well regulated and maintained destination.

Kraig Becker