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Ecotourism in Action at Tibet-side Mount Everest

The Background of EBC’s Relocation

The news about the relocation of Tibet Everest Base Camp has spread quickly and resulted in an unexpected misinterpretation that Mount Everest will not be accessible for tourists to travel, which has been confirmed untrue by Everest Administration of Tingri County, TAR, China. 

The original Everest Base Camp site (5200m) we are talking about is on the North Slope of Himalaya on Tibet side. It was where the black tents for tourists’ accommodation used to be seasonally set up from April to December. The new site (5150m) for tourists’ sightseeing and overnight accommodation will be moved 2km backwards, closely facing Rongbuk Monastery, where a panoramic view of Mount Everest can still be enjoyed and recognized by some tourists traveling in Mount Everest before as the best sightseeing spot.

Rongbuk Monastery and Mt. Everest
Rongbuk Monastery and Mt. Everest

Cleaning and Reclaiming Deceased Climbers

In 2018, there had been three cleaning action plans carried out in the higher area above 5200m, where normal tourists without climbing permits are not legible to reach. The garbage was mainly left by mountaineers. According to the statics, during these three cleaning projects in 2018, there are 8.4 ton of garbage collected at the area above 5200m; and 335 tons at the area below 5200m. 

Some villagers, who are members of the cleaning team, said that the area around and below EBC (5200m) maintained comparatively clean because it’s accessible for rubbish trucks to transport trash. Even farther to Advanced Base Camp (6500m), it is still rather clean because the villagers assigned cleaning duties did their cleaning regularly. 

The main cleaning mission in 2019 is to continue collecting garbage at the higher area above 7000m at Mount Everest, Mount Shishapangma, and Mount Cho Oyo; and for the first time, a specific project will be set up with loans, to reclaim the deceased climbers, mostly lying along the climbing route above 8000m, and take care of the placement of the bodies with the permission of their families. 

Disused Oxygen Tanks at Mount Everest
Disused Oxygen Tanks at Mount Everest

No vehicles can reach the higher area, even yaks who can carry more heavy rubbish than men are not productive there. Only mountaineers with professional climbing practices are able to do the cleaning job at the moment. Tibet Climbing Party has been the major group that started cleaning Mount Everest since 2003. They are made of local Tibetans and mountaineers. But even for them, cleaning Everest is still tough and dangerous, which will take definitely a long time to complete and maintain. The harsh environment with the extremely low oxygen concentration, intolerable coldness, and innumerable hidden moving abysses makes this task risky and life-threatening.   

Mountaineering Control and Wildlife Protection

The General Administration of Sports of China and the General Administration of Sports of TAR has made a joint announcement that new administrative methods on mountaineering will be established. 

The climbing activity will be restricted only in Spring. And based on statics of the actual recipients every year before and the reevaluated the loading capacity of Mount Everest, the annual number of people attempting to scale Mount Everest will be strictly limited to around 300, including climbers, mountaineering guides, mountaineering coordinators, and mountaineering assistants. 

Everest Summits 1953-2016
Everest Summits 1953-2016

Furthermore, the cost on climbing permit for one person, including accommodation and boards, registration fee for summitting, transportation, has been increased up to 458,000 RMB, in comparison with the price in 2016, which is 350,000RMB. The only company that is legible to hold the climbing activity in the North Slope of Everest, Tibet side, is Tibet Himalaya Expedition.  
In addition to the mountaineering control, there are 85 wildlife rangers and 1000 positions related to ecology conservation, occupied by local nomads, in the Everest Reserve area, patrolling and watching out for animals indigenous to this area in their spare time. 

Since the first successful ascent made by Edmund Percival Hillary, a New Zealand mountaineer and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese mountaineer in 1953, Mount Everest has been the most attractive peak for climbers and tourists. How to cope with the booming tourism and conserve the ecosystem has always been a huge challenge.
 
The relocation of Everest Base Camp, pulling human impact out of the core zone, and enhanced cleaning projects implemented by a professional team, all shows that the realistic ecotourism is in action in Mount Everest. This miscomprehended policy in the long run, may help recover the damaged ecosystem in Mount Everest.

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