The road to Everest (click to enlarge) This year on Everest, climbers could call home courtesy of the Chinese Army who had erected a mobile phone tower near base camp on the north, Tibetan side. The Chinese were doing a practice run for an Everest climb that will see Chinese climbers take the Olympic torch to the summit and back down again on its journey to 2008 Beijing Games. The torch will be travelling, in relay, around 85,000 miles, that will take 130 days.
To make transportation easier the Chinese have started to improve, with plans to tarmac, the 67 mile dirt road to Everest base camp at 17,060 feet. Estimated cost, around $20 million. At the moment you can drive to base camp but it is a bumpy and uncomfortable drive. See this recent photo click here provided by Kevin Thaw who recently summited Everest along with Leo Houlding, Conrad Anker and Gerry Moffat as part of the Altitude Films Everest Expedition. The new road would be a major boom to the area making the transportation of tourists and mountaineers more efficient and easier.
It seems however that the Chinese Environmental protection authorities could veto the project. "We'll have to get the environmental specialists' analysis. After the analysis we will need to seek the approval of the authorities of the nature reserve of Mount Qomolangma," said Hao Peng, vice chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, using the Chinese name for Mount Everest. “The paved road project is on hold,” Ju Jianhua, director of Tibet's Foreign Affairs Department, told The Associated Press.
Many see the carrying of the Olympic torch to the summit of Everest as a way for China to solidify its claim on Tibet, that the Chinese government say they have ruled for centuries. Tibetans say that their homeland was an independent state for most of that time. Beijing continues to rule the region with a heavy hand despite worldwide protest.