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Everest as seen from BC North (Tibet)
Photo by Francesco Tremolada
Everest from the north.
Photo by Francesco Tremolada

Ropes fixed to Everest summit for Chinese height measurement expedition

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News broke a few hours ago that a team of mountaineers belonging to a Chinese expedition which aims to measure the height of Everest has reached the summit having climbed up the Tibetan side of the mountain and fixed ropes to the tip. The Chinese expedition is the only expedition operating on the highest mountain in the world as the mountain is closed to all foreigners due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As reported in mid-April, in order to contain the Covid-19 pandemic both the Nepalese and Chinese governments closed their international borders and, consequently, halted all mountaineering activity on the highest mountains in the world. The only exception is a permit granted by the Chinese government to an expedition on the Tibetan side of Chomolungma, which plans on measuring the altitude of Everest as well as guiding paid clients to the summit.

After a series of failed attempts in recent days, which stopped at 8000 and 8600 meters due to strong winds, according to Nepal’s Mingma Gyalje Sherpa a team of Tibetan mountaineers composed of Dorjee Tsering, Tenzing Norbu, Dunpa, Tashi Gombu, Tsering Norbu and Dorje summited a few hours ago. The rope-fixing team managed to fix ropes for Survey team that will make a summit bid tomorrow, followed by the rest of the commercial expedition.

As many will remember, this is not the first time that the altitude is measured of Chomolungma (the Tibetan name for Everest). The officially recognised height is 8848m although some consider it likely to be lower or, in any case, dependant of the snow cover. The surveillance expedition is normal therefore. What is decidedly not normal is the period during which the expedition is being carried out. As mentioned above, the mountain is off-limits and "closed for Covid-19" for all except this Chinese expedition. In recent memory there has been only one similar episode, namely in 2008 when the Tibetan side was sealed off (and no climbing allowed above Camp 2 on the Nepalse side) to enable the torch of the 2008 Beijing Olympics to reach the top of the highest mountain in the world.

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