Dear Family & Friends:
I have not even left the United States and the drama has already begun.
As most of you know, the Chinese plan to run the Olympic torch up the South side and down the North side of Mt. Everest as part of the 2008 Olympics. Permits to climb Mt. Everest from the North side are issued by the Chinese government since the North side of the mountain is located in Tibet. In a dramatic development, the Chinese government has just announced that it will not be issuing permits to climb Mt. Everest from the North side in the Spring of 2008 “due to concern of heavy climbing activity, crowded climbing routes and increasing environmental pressures….” The government has asked climbing expeditions to delay their trips to the mountain until after May 10. For insight as to the real motivation behind this action, see http://www.mounteverest.net/.
While fearful that this development could put undue pressure on the South side, as North side climbers scramble to salvage their trips, I was confident that my trip was in tact. In fact, I have already purchased non-refundable airplane tickets for my two daughters and myself and made a substantial payment to my trip organizer-Asian Trekking. However, yesterday its was reported that the Chinese government was putting pressure on the tiny country of Nepal to close down the South side for the 2008 season, leaving hundreds of trekkers and climbers stranded and depriving the people of Nepal of their much needed livelihood. It was also reported that the Nepalese Tourism Ministry had granted the request and was not going to allow trekkers or climbers to move above Gorak Shep until after May 12. This would not allow sufficient time for climbers to acclimatize on the mountain since the summit window opens up around May 17 and is usually closed by the end of the month.
Today, the news is much better. It is now being reported that the government of Nepal has worked out a compromise with the Chinese that will allow South side expeditions to continue as long as climbers do not move above Camp III (on the Lhotse Face) from May 1-May 10, which presumably is when the torch will be carried to the summit. This compromise will work for South side expeditions since the acclimatization program does not require moves above Camp III during this period.
None of this has been confirmed, so stay tuned.