Olympic torch to scale Everest amid tight security
The Chinese have closely guarded their plan to carry the Olympic flame to the top of the world's highest mountain.
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"I was just joking around. 'Check out the flag I'm going to take to the top,' " Holland said. "If I'd realized it was such a high crime, I wouldn't have advertised it."
We knew there were restrictions on satellite phones and video cameras but were now told that even pre-recorded radio material on non-political subjects would not be allowed.
Nor would informal chats with the hundreds of mountaineers currently in the camp, the tourism ministry official, Prabodh Dhakal, said. If any mountaineer talked to the BBC, he or she would be expelled, he added.
But it's not just rogue climbers and media that pose a problem for the planned relay to the top of the world's tallest mountain. Extreme weather fluctuations provide only a small window of opportunity to reach the peak, and 1996 climbing accidents and deaths, chronicled in Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air," resulted from the combination of sudden early May storms and a rush to summit during fair weather.
One recent report quoted a Chinese meteorologist who told China's state-controlled Xinhua that high winds would make the summit attempt improbable until May 3. Another Xinhua report today gave no indication of the torch's arrival at the summit and Sun Bin, chief of the Olympic Torch Relay Center Qomolangma Operations Team, said the team of climbers included ethnic Tibetans and several women. Mr. Sun also gave details about the planned route – and how the torch would stay lighted at such heights.
The Olympic torch was designed by a Chinese aerospace company to ensure that it will stay alight at high altitude, and weather monitoring equipment has been set up on the Chinese side of the mountain to help ensure a successful ascent.
Ferocious winds and temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 Fahrenheit) at the summit are the major troubles in lighting the torch, but Chinese scientists have finished tests last year to ensure the torch can stay alight in the tough, oxygen-sparse conditions that leave even experienced climbers struggling.
"Wind is the most important factor in climbing and as for Mt. Qomolangma, there are four weather windows in May in which mountaineers can attempt to scale, namely the first week of the month, 10th to 15th, 20th to 25th and at the end of the month, so we stand a great chance of fulfilling the feat for the Beijing Olympics," said an upbeat Sun.