Wednesday, March 12, 2008

China North Route

Interesting news came out today dealing with the North Route- which weaves it's way up and around to the summit via the Yellow Band and a few other notable terrain features. The Chinese have decided to effectively close off their side of Everest this spring to any climb teams other than the Olympic Torch team.

Their reasoning for this? Free Tibet protesters, who they fear will be out in force to protest the Chinese presence at base camp and allllllll the way up the slopes to the absolute summit. They are so concerned about protesters apparently, that they sent an impassioned plea to the Nepalis to do the exact same thing that they are doing. Apparently, the Chinese also received snow in the Himalaya this winter, which has caused great concern in Beijing. It's all a matter of safety, you see.


Forgive me for being a cynic, but I don't buy one microsecond of that BS. Let's see. Hmm.... oh, that's right, the torch. How great would it be if you were a Chinese national, to see a mob of Chinese mountaineers on top of Everest, torch waving with the Olympic flame proudly shooting forth. Noone else in sight, just the Chinese, on top of Everest broadcast for the world to witness. No Dutch, Americans, Brits, or Japanese in the background, stealing their moment. They own half the mountain, so who is going to stop them from shutting down their half? It's all about the photo op, right? And better yet, if they can pressure the Nepalis into going along for the ride all the better.

And the whole protester deal. If (knock on wood) I do make the summit, I'm going to have about one ounce of energy that I'd consider dedicating to a protest. After I yawned a few times, sucked down 5 more inhales of Oxygen and sat like an exhausted statue for 10 minutes. Maybe then, if I was lucky I'd gin up enough energy for a muted, breathless "Free Tibet" before going right back to the Oxygen as the world closes in around me.

For quite some time it has been clear that this would be a unique season for the North Side thanks to the way the Chinese view the Olympic Torch Relay. Last season, several articles were dedicated to the Chinese Government and conduct of the Chinese team who did a dry run to see what they needed to do in order to make the actual Torch Relay happen. A whole bunch of teams were essentially bumped from camps and trails all the way up the mountain. In order to make way for the team and it's logistics trains, the Chinese team would essentially walk into camp and say "all this area is now our camp site". Teams that were already there were bumped, and ones that rolled in afterwards were given the "Sorry Charlie" speech. Don't like the raw deal? Take it up with Beijing. Larger teams, like HimEx were ok thanks to a larger and regular presence as well as experience in dealing with some of the team veterans. But smaller and newer teams found it difficult to stake a claim. And that was just for a dry run.

Fortunately, -for now- the Chinese peer pressure tactic hasn't rubbed off on the Nepalis, who actually need the climbing permit money and view it as a credible source of income. The word I heard (which you should throw as much creidibility behind as if I were giving you explicit instructions as how to build a time machine) is that the Nepalis will as a courtesy allow a Chinese window up top, but draw the line there and won't forego the entire season. Good news for us, not so good news for the 300 odd people who are now suffering heart attacks because their trip was just canceled on the north side.

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