China resumes access to Mount Everest for foreigners

Calista Alma
April 04, 2024

Following a hiatus due to the pandemic, China has reopened access to Mount Everest for foreign climbers, allowing them to ascend via Tibet.

Adrian Ballinger, an experienced mountaineer who has conquered Everest eight times, favors the Tibet route (from the north) over the more popular Nepal route (from the south). This year, he will lead a group of climbers through his company, Alpenglow Expeditions.

Unlike Nepal, where tourism officials handle permits, passes for the Chinese route are issued by the China Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA), rather than by authorities in Beijing. The reopening announcement is not made through official channels, but instead, climbers await a price list from CTMA, indicating the availability of permits for the season.

Foreign climbers must obtain a separate visa for Tibet, a semi-autonomous region, in addition to their tourist visa for China. The CTMA assists climbers in obtaining the necessary permits.

Each year, a maximum of 300 permits are allocated for non-Chinese climbers to ascend Mount Everest via Tibet. The climbing season typically spans from late April to mid-May, with Ballinger’s team planning to arrive in China on April 25 after pre-acclimatizing at home.

While Nepal’s route to Everest is more renowned, attracting a larger number of climbers, it also results in more environmental degradation due to increased foot traffic. However, this wasn’t always the case.

Ballinger explains that climbing from the Chinese side was once more popular and considered safer until 2008 when China hosted the Summer Olympics. The closure of Everest to climbers that year led to a shift in business towards the Nepali side. With access to Everest via Tibet now reinstated, this trend may begin to reverse.

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