Climbers on the western cwm on the south side of Mt. Everest. The Chinese and Nepalese climbing, communication and protest restrictions have caused friction between army officials and climbers in the past few weeks. [Photo] Brad Clement / Spindrift Films
Giving short notice to Everest aspirants, the China Tibet Mountaineering Association and the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism this spring released a series of climbing, communication and protest restrictions for the “Olympic season” on Mt. Everest (read the March 19 and April 9, 2008 NewsWires for more information). Now, as the Olympic torch waits at Rongbuk Glacier base camp for an Everest ascent from the Tibetan side, Chinese and Nepalese troops have been enforcing and taking liberties with the stated restrictions.
In accordance with a media blackout, officials confiscated video cameras and satellite phones and imposed restrictions on radio communications between camps. Additionally they coerced journalists on the south side to leave base camp, and last week an American climber, William Brant Holland, was ejected when officials found a “Free Tibet” banner in his bag.
Nepalese troops have kept a tight grasp on climbing activity to comply with Chinese demands. The flow of climbers above base camp has been regulated for the duration of the restrictions: first there was a delay in opening the icefall route to Camp 1. Now, as torch preparations materialize, there may be unforeseen conditions on when parties may travel, even to advance above base camp. Speaking under the condition of anonymity, a source connected with a climber in Nepal informed Alpinist that the Nepalese army would “shoot to kill” anyone who was in direct violation of the climbing demands, a claim supported by Associated Press reports.
The icefall route from Base Camp to Camp 1 was opened on April 17 this year, about ten days later than usual. The delay has expedition leaders worrying that it “will greatly affect our ability to place Camp 1 – Camp 4 logistics in order to safely and successfully climb Everest.” Since then the route to Camp 2 was opened and numerous teams there lie in wait to advance. However, frustrated leaders also cited that the original terms of the permit allowed for more acclimatizing freedom:
“At the Ministry Briefing when the permit was issued, it was stated that we would be able to sleep at C3 until April 30th and also that from 1-10 May, even though we would not be able to sleep at C3, we would be permitted to climb to C3 on day trips. The Army is now [on April 20] stating that we are unable to go above C2 until the Chinese have reached the summit. At the Ministry briefing in Kathmandu we were also reassured that if the Chinese did not summit by 10 May we would NOT be further delayed in our climbing plans. This appears to be no longer the case. We have effectively been deceived by the Nepalese Ministry of Tourism. These changes in policy are not in accord with the original conditions under which we signed the permit. Most importantly these conditions will make it very difficult for us to climb Everest this season and they will result in safety issues associated with crowding.”
It remains unclear when the Chinese will go for a summit bid with the Olympic torch, but “Himalayan forecasts announce a storm approaching,” Explorersweb reported on April 28. “Quite a few climbers secretly hope for it to blow the torch off the mountain.”