PtG Article 22.12.2006

China raises Everest climbing fees to make room for trial run of Olympic torch

The Chinese authorities are trying to limit the number of climbers on Mount Everest’s north side in Tibet. Officially the Chinese are preparing a trial run of the torch relay for the Olympic Games on the summit, but many speculate that the real reason is that Everest is close to Cho Oyu where Chinese army guards shot at Tibetan refugees in September.

The Chinese government has raised the fees for climbing Everest by many hundred dollars and also raised the fees for sherpas and kitchen staff due to a “special program focused on China’s Olympics in 2008”, explains the website The Chinese are planning a trial run  of taking the Olympic torch all the way up Mount Everest.

However, seasoned climbers and human rights activists say that raising the fees is an effort by Beijing to keep negative publicity at bay, especially after the international furore over reports from mountaineers of the shooting of Tibetan refugees in September that resulted in the death of a 17-year-old nun.

The nun was Kelsang Namtso from Nagchu prefecture, and she was part of a group of 73 refugees that crossed the Nangpa La pass near Everest into Nepal. As the group was crossing the pass, Chinese guards opened fire killing at least one – maybe more – refugees, allegedly in self-defence.

The trail to the Nangpa La pass is overlooked by the base camp of the 8,200 metre mountain Cho Oyu which is often used as a training peak by climbers gaining experience for an attempt on Everest. Footage of the Chinese police taking aim at refugees and of bodies hitting the snow was taken by Romanian mountaineer Sergiu Matei and broadcast around the world. It can also be seen on youtube.

The video clearly depicts that the Tibetans had their backs to the soldiers, were unarmed, and offered no resistance. The nun who died appears to have been shot in the back.

During the incident, 14 children, aged 8-10, were captured along with 16 young adults. The International Campaign for Tibet reported that the captured children were marched in single file through advance base camp at Cho Oyu - as climbers and sherpherds looked on.