In what will come as a surprise to travelers planning to climb Mount Everest this spring, the Nepali government has decided to close the south face of the mountain to trekkers from May 1-10 when the Olympic torch is to be carried to the summit.
China already banned climbing on the north face of Mount Everest until after May 10. The mountain lies on the border between Nepal and Tibet, the region of western China where ethnic Tibetans have rioted this week against the Chinese government.
The New York Times reported today (Friday) that Nepal’s tourism minister said the Chinese government had urged Nepal to close the mountain to help prevent political disturbances during the Olympic torch ceremony. The Olympics are scheduled to take place in Beijing from Aug. 8-24.
It’s not clear whether official word of the mountain closure has trickled down to tour companies in Nepal. Dawa Sherpa, head of Asian Trekking, told the Times that he was trying to reorganize treks set for the spring on the Tibetan side of the mountain to the Nepali side. The news of the closure of the Nepali side came as a shock to him.
Sherpa says some of the trekkers preparing for climbs this spring are already in Nepal and now their trips are in limbo.