China’s separation line on Everest triggers controversy in Nepal

Kathmandu, May 11 (EFE).- A controversy has broken out in Nepal over China’s plans to create a separation line at the summit of Mt. Everest to prevent climbers from the Nepalese side mingling with those ascending from the Tibetan side over fears of Covid-19 infections.

Chinese state-owned Xinhua news agency recently reported that Tibetan guides will set up a separation line before 21 local climbers from their side – who were on their way up – reached the summit.

The article did not reveal how China planned to draw up a line on the Everest summit, which is just a small mound of snow at a height of 8,848.86 meters above sea-level, situated at the border between the two countries.

Mountaineers and government officials in Nepal have said the idea is silly because it is not practically possible to create a line at the world’s highest peak to stop the transmission of the virus

Mingma Sherpa, the chairman of Seven Summit Treks, one of Nepal’s largest firms conducting expeditions, told EFE on Tuesday that he did not even understand what a separation line meant.

“Is it a rope? Who will fix them and where?” said Sherpa, whose agency alone is handling 130 climbers this spring on Everest. “Are they holding the ropes in the thin air?”

Moreover, he stressed that the number of climbers from the Chinese side was “very small” with no practical possibility of their mingling with climbers from the Nepal side.

Rudra Singh Tamang, the director general of the Department of Tourism – the government agency responsible for issuing climbing permits – told EFE that Everest is an international boundary and no one is allowed to create a “separation line” at the summit.

According to Tamang, there has been no official communication from China regarding the so-called separation line.

Medical experts too have expressed their skepticism.

“I am sorry, but in what way would transmission of viral particles actually be possible here? To me, this sounds at best, humorous,” Sameer Mani Dixit, director of Research at the Center for Molecular Dynamics Nepal, tweeted on Monday.

China has not allowed foreign climbers to ascend from the Tibetan side since the Covid-19 outbreak last year over infection concerns.

In December, Nepal and China jointly announced the new height of Mt. Everest at 8,848.86 meters, after a decades-long disagreement on the exact height of the world’s tallest mountain.

Nepal has been hit hard by the second wave of Covid-19, with new daily cases crossing the 8,000 mark for the last few days, during which the country has been averaging 50 deaths a day.

A total of 408 Everest climbing permits have been issued this spring, a record since the first ascent of the peak in 1953. With each climber hiring at least one climbing guide, the total number of climbers is estimated to go over 800. EFE


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