China resumes allowing foreigners to climb Mount Everest

China has allowed foreign climbers to summit Everest via Tibet for the first time since the pandemic.

Adrian Ballinger, who has summited Everest eight times, is one of the Western guides who prefers the Tibetan route (from the north) to the top of the world’s tallest mountain, rather than the better-known Nepal route (from the south). . This year, he led a group of climbers through his company, alpenglow expedition.

All passes to use the Chinese route to the mountain, known in China as Chomolangma, are distributed by the China Tibetan Mountaineering Association (CTMA), not by tourism authorities or councils in Beijing.

There has also been no official announcement from the Chinese government informing citizens that passes will be distributed.

As a result, the best way for non-Chinese climbers to find out when the Tibetan side of Everest opens is when the CTMA publishes the season’s price list, Ballinger said. These lists include a yak (to carry equipment up and down the mountain), a local guide, an interpreter, and transportation from Tibet’s capital Lhasa to Everest’s base camp.

Foreigners who obtain a tourist visa to China must obtain an additional separate visa to Tibet, a semi-autonomous region. CTMA supports this for climbers.

A maximum of 300 permits are available per year for non-Chinese climbers.

The window to climb Everest is short, usually between late April and mid-May. Ballinger’s team is scheduled to arrive in China on April 25, after acclimatizing at home to save time.

Competing at the top of the world

Nepal has a more famous and photographed trail to the top of Mount Everest, but more tourists means more trash, erosion, and human waste.

However, this was not always the case.

“Climbing from the Chinese side used to be more popular than climbing from the Nepal side. Therefore, from around 2000 to 2007, the Chinese side was more popular, and the reason it was popular was because it was safer. It was generally understood that there was,” Ballinger explains.

So what has changed?

In 2008, China hosted the Summer Olympics in Beijing. The Olympic torch made its way to Everest before reaching the capital, even though there were already groups of tourists ready to take on the world’s highest peak.

“Eight days before we all got to the mountain in 2008, they closed it down for the entire season and a lot of people lost a lot of money,” Ballinger says. “And because of that decision, the business shifted to the Nepali side that year.”

Now, for the first time since 2020, foreign climbers can reach the summit of Everest via the northern route through Tibet, a trend that may gradually begin to reverse.

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