China's Olympic Everest bid has left hundreds of mountaineers and porters in limbo as the Chinese authorities have postponed all other attempts on the mountain. In a document sent to guides and mountaineering associations, giving them just a few weeks of warning, China has put forward the following reasons for the climbing ban:
“Concern of heavy climbing activities, crowded climbing routes and increasing environmental pressures will cause potential safety problems in Qomolangma (Everest) areas. We are not ability [sic] to accept your expedition, so please accept our deeply [sic] regret.”
Kenton Cool from the guiding outfit Dream Guides is scheduled to take Sir Ranulph Fiennes on an Everest attempt this season. He is still upbeat about his chances:
“I have spoken to my contacts in Nepal and they have reassured me that our expedition is going ahead as planned. We expect no problems as we are attempting the mountain from the South side. Our planned summit day hasn't changed.”
China has banned all climbing from the Chinese (North) side and has entered in to talks with Nepal to try and secure a ban from the South (Nepalese) side of the mountain – thus shutting all potential climbers from the summit. So far Nepal has refused to close the South side.
Jack Geldard, Editor of UKClimbing.com has this to say;
“It's a blow to mountaineering. Government funding for mountaineering in this country has been cut to virtually nothing, grants for expeditions have been completely stopped and there is no funding for competition climbing. The little money we did receive has been channelled in to Olympic sports. It is oddly fitting that the Olympic Everest debacle turns out to be another kick in the teeth for climbers worldwide.”
Most mountaineering groups feel that this ban is completely unjustified in terms of overcrowding and safety. They say the real reason China has banned these climbers from attempting the mountain is to stop a potential demonstration from the Free Tibet campaign – a campaign that has historically been supported by many climbers and mountaineers. Fears over a summit clash, with the Olympic torch being over shadowed by a Free Tibet banner may have prompted this sudden action.
There are protests in Kathmandu today by the trekking agencies and local Sherpas who risk losing vital work if the mountain is closed. Many of those who will have been employed on the Chinese side will now be out work for this season. The local economy will be hit hard.
The upshot of this ban could be a huge increase in activity on the open side of the mountain, with increased dangers from over crowding as all the teams initially attempting Everest from the North side change their objective at the last minute.