SGMI Everest expedition faces rough weather in Tibet uprising

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Gangtok, Mar 19 (UNI) Amid reports of ban on scaling the Mount Everest until May 10, the fate of the first independent expedition of Sikkim's Sonam Gyatso Mountaineering Institute (SGMI) to the 8848m peak remains uncertain following unrest in Tibet.

The team from here already left for New Delhi en route to Kathmandu and then to the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China for the expedition.

The Everest is the border of China and Nepal.

China has banned scaling on Everest until May 10 suspecting sabotage on torch bearers of the Beijing Olympics. Nepal also consented the decree.

May is the best time for scaling the Everest and it is this 'Spring' date that the SGMI had set aside for its first independent expedition.

Climbers to the peak are at present being told by Nepal that the Everest summit is off-limits to the public from all sides. This is to facilitate the smooth carrying of the Olympic torch to the summit by the Chinese and risk any plans to foil this attempt by Tibetan activists. Which means that it will be two months before the SGMI team actually start their expedition.

Meanwhile, conflicting versions over the ban had led to confusion even as Nepal dithered over mounting pressure from China and outrage from the rest of the world and the climbers over the ban. While it had been reported that the Nepal government had agreed to a Chinese request to temporarily block access to Mount Everest, some tourism officials had denied such a ban. The denials came fast from both Nepal and China much before the Tibetan protest gained momentum since the past few days.

Climbers would be banned beyond the Everest's base camp until May 10 Nepal Tourism Minister had said recently.

As per media reports, China had shown apprehensions that protestors might tamper with the plans to take the Olympic torch to the peak which is scheduled for late April or early May.

With the ban, it would be two months before the SGMI team actually start its expedition. It was not just the SGMI, hundreds of other climbers from all over the world were being affected by this ban.

The team was expected to scale the peak from the North Col and the North east ridge, which was considered to be a difficult climb, - the same that the Olympic torch team of the Chinese was taking. The ascent to the top from the North Col begins in Tibet, unlike the easier approach from the Southeast ridge in Nepal. The North face route to be used by the Sikkim team, began from Rongbuk Glacier in Tingri county of Tibet. A base camp had to be first set up at 5,180m (17,000ft) on a gravel plain just below the glacier. The base camp would be followed by at least six other camps before the team launches its final summit push.

The institute had already made their bookings for the climb through an agency in Nepal and have paid 5,500 dollars for necessary permits.

The North Col route, being planned by SGMI and the Chinese Olympic torch team was first climbed in 1960 - ironically by a Chinese and Tibetan team of more than 200 men and women.

The ban for two months came at a time when the SGMI were to begin the ascent to the 8848m (29, 028 ft) peak.

The 15 member team of SGMI had already left the state recently and they are presently in Delhi it had been learnt from where they were to leave for Kathmandu to begin their expedition.

While the team members and the principal of the SGMI, who was the team leader could not be contacted till late this evening, it had been learnt that they were closely watching the developments and would leave New Delhi only after a confirmation. They were also preparing with their equipment and other necessary documents in New Delhi.

The team included two women climbers.

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