China to set up `line of separation' on Everest
China will set up “a line of separation” at the summit of Mount Everest to prevent the mingling of climbers from COVID-hit Nepal and those ascending from the Tibetan side as a precautionary measure, Chinese state media reported on Sunday.
Everest base camp on the Nepalese side has been hit by coronavirus cases since late April. The Nepalese government, starved of tourism revenue, has yet to cancel the spring climbing season, usually from April to early June before the monsoon rains.
It was not immediately clear how the line would be enforced on the summit, a tiny, perilous and inhospitable area the size of a dining table.
A small team of Tibetan climbing guides will ascend Everest and set up the “line of separation” at the summit to stop any contact between mountaineers from both sides of the peak, Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the head of Tibet's sports bureau.
A group of 21 Chinese nationals is en route to the summit on the Tibetan side, Xinhua reported.
The Tibetan guides will set up the separation line ahead of their arrival, the state-run news agency said, without describing what the line would look like.
It was also unclear whether the Tibetan guides would be the ones enforcing the “separation,” or whether they would remain in the so-called death zone, where many lives have been lost due to a dearth of oxygen, to hold the line.
The top of the 8,848metre peak is a small mound of snow with barely enough space for half a dozen climbers and guides at any one time.
China has not allowed any foreign climbers to ascend from the Tibetan side since the outbreak of the new coronavirus last year due to infection concerns.
Nepal, in a bid to get the mountaineering industry and tourism back up and running, has issued climbing permits to more than 700 climbers for 16 Himalayan peaks — 408 to Mount Everest — for the April-May climbing season. In return, it has asked climbers to bring back their empty oxygen cylinders to use in hospitals dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases that has brought the country's fragile health-care system to its breaking point.
Kul Bahadur Gurung, a senior official with the NMA, said climbers and their Sherpa guides were estimated to have carried at least 3,500 oxygen bottles this season. These bottles often get buried in avalanches or are abandoned on the mountain slopes at the end of the expedition.
On Sunday, Nepal reported a daily increase of 8,777 infections, 30 times the number recorded on April 9.