Tibetan authorities deny Mount Qomolangma's permanent closure
Local authorities have denied online claims that access to Mount Qomolangma - better known as “Mount Everest” in the West - has been permanently restricted.
The recent online rumor that the world's highest peak was being permanently shut has caused widespread anxiety and frustration.
However, officials quickly moved to quell public concerns. They said only tourists were banned from entering the core zone of the Mount Qomolangma Nature Reserve, while licensed mountaineers would still have normal access. Meanwhile, a new camp would be established just several kilometers lower down.
"The measures are mainly aimed at tourists, and are for ecological protection. We haven't closed the mountain on the Chinese side, and we still welcome mountaineering enthusiasts," said Nyima Tsering, director of the Tibet Sport Bureau.
Qomolangma has seen a growing number of tourists and mountaineers in recent years, with more than 800 climbers scaling it last year alone.
But the area is also home to one of the world's most vulnerable ecosystems, and it has inevitably become a victim of its own success.
"We consider Mount Qomolangma as our hometown, so whenever I am a guide during the mountaineering process, I also get myself involved in the actions of ecological protection," said Tsering Danda from the Tibet Mountaineering Team.
China carried out three major clean-ups at the reserve last spring, and collected more than eight tons of trash. But there's much more to the effort than just retrieving garbage, as workers needed to endure three years of training and acclimatization to be up to the task.
This year they will attempt to reclaim the frozen bodies of those who perished above 8,000 meters over the years. Meanwhile, they will also be limiting the number of tourists staying overnight at the base-camp to just 300.
They say these measures are needed every once in a while to sustain the beauty of the world's highest peak.
(Cover: A View of Mount Qomolangma from Rongpo Monastery /VCG Photo)