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Reinhold Messner and the mountaineering world stand up for Tibet

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Reinhold Messner and the main French mountaineering organisations defend Tibet.

"It's a farce. Why do they have to take the Olympic flame up there in the first place?" is what Reinhold Messner told the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau recently, referring of course to the torch relay to the summit of Everest, scheduled for some time this May.

As everyone knows, Messner understands a thing or two about Everest and the other 8000m peaks. He stigmatized China's decision as follows: "In any case, the flame won't burn up there as there isn't enough oxygen and far too much wind." Messner added that he was not in favour of boycotting the Olympics, but in "supporting the protests." "China is to blame for this mess, seeing that the torch relay has become the pretext for pro-Tibet protests."

Messner is not alone, and the prestigious French Groupe de Haute Montagne has now expressed its disagreement with regards to the "Chinese methods". The prestigious group defines the ascent as being "contrary to the ethical principles of alpinism" and invites "all mountaineers and mountaineering organisations to stand united against the Chinese ascent of Everest, programmed for the Olympics."

"We support mountaineering which draws inspiration from human values and we oppose ourselves resolutely against all who violate these ethics" the GHM press release states. "On this basis we believe that the Olympic torch on Everest is completely inappropriate, offensive for the Tibetan population, degrading for the Himalaya in general and Everest in particular."

The GHM continues "We would like to ask all guides and mountaineers worldwide to not help this projectin any way whatsoever. And in the name of a real mountaineering ethics, which cannot accept a similar compromise, we ask all national and international mountaineering associations, mountaineering clubs and the International Union of Guides, to stand against this ascent and publicly condemn it."

The Groupe de Haute Montagne is joined by the Syndicat National des Guides de Montagne (SNGM), the Federation Francaise des Clubs Alpins et de Montagne (FFCAM) and the Union Internationale des Associations de Guides de Montagne (UIAGM), all of which do not want to be associated with Everest Olympic Flame project.

The mountaineering world seems to be taking a strong stand in favour of Tibet. In the meantime news reports from expeditions currently in the Khumbu valley heading towards Everest talk of serious controls to seal off the highest mountain in the world. Who knows which turn events will take... the only thing which no one seems to bear in mind is the one thing mountaineers know all too well: reaching the summit of Everest is no mean undertaking, even in the best of times.

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