www.TibetanReview.net, March 14’08
China announced on Mar 10 that both Mt Everest and Cho Oyu were closed for foreigners until May 10, with only Chinese climbers being allowed, reported Mounteverest (NY) Mar 10 and the IANS Mar 11. The Chinese have closed Everest for the Olympic torch relay, although they had repeatedly guaranteed they wouldn’t, the Mounteverest report and others said.
As a result, trekking companies had to cancel confirmed climbing expeditions. For example, Eric Simonson, co-owner of Ashford’s International Mountain Guides, had to rush to reschedule treks for two groups, said TheNewsTribune.com (US) Mar 11.
Last autumn China introduced a new rule whereby mountaineers should climb in mostly national teams and apply for permit at least 2-3 months ahead to allow political screening. This, the report noted, led to far fewer teams this spring season compared to other years. And the Cho Oyu peak is several days away from Everest, is rarely climbed in spring and only a handful of mountaineers were headed there this spring, said the report.
The real reason for the new Chinese restriction, the report noted, was, its worst nightmare of a picture of the flame on Everest summit, alongside a climber holding up a “Free Tibet” sign. This was reported to be the reason why China was trying to convince Nepal to close the peak from the south side too during the Chinese Everest climb.
Nepal, usually ever accommodating of Chinese concerns on politically sensitive Tibet related matters, was yet to reply. The reason was such a ban would create a furore and grim opposition from the Sherpa community and mountaineering agencies, whose bread and butter come from the expeditions to the peak, said the IANS report.