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Thursday, June 1, 2023

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    Mount Everest : China reaches new heights of ridicule

    Ostensibly not satisfied with claiming our shoals in the Spratleys, Scarborough and elsewhere in the South China Seas and West Philippine Seas, China has declared they will lay claim to one section of the summit at Mount Everest, the world's highest peak at 8,848.86 meters or 29,032 feet. 

    Am I joking or instigating an issue in my Sino-bashing agenda? Obviously not, as I am only quoting the news wires from  Associated Press and Reuters. It came as a disbelief for me as well as the 4,000 who have summited Mt Everest. The reaction became one of condemnation, and rightly so.  I can surmise what my favorite Foreign Secretary, Ted Locsin will tell the Chinese if he is a mountaineer.

    China, who has access to Mt Everest through their questionable takeover of Tibet, shares the Himalayas mountain range from the north side through Tingri, Shigatse Prefecture in Tibet  – oops, sorry, I mean, Xixang.

    The standing space at the peak of the world's highest mountain is barely the size of a table good for, at most, six persons according to friends of mine who have summitted. Most climbers will attest that you will be "near death" when you reach the peak, with the lack of oxygen, all your energy spent and the "Mama, I love you" frame of mind.

    In that condition, will you be tolerant of anyone telling you that you cannot stand on this side of the peak simply because it does not belong to Nepal? Ridicule at its highest.

    All a climber wishes to do, once upon summitting, is to take on a 360-degree view of the world, pose for a selfie with your Sherpa guide or group, hold your country flag, say a little prayer and, pronto,  "Mama, I'm coming home."

    On descending, many never made it home alive. This year already two climbers have died. Dr Puwei Lui (55), an American, died while attempting to the top while Swiss national, Abdul Waraich (41) collapsed on the way down to the lower camps after summiting.

    This very week, my friend Swee Chiow Khoo is preparing his ascend to a neighboring south peak, Lhotse which is 8, 516m high and is the fourth highest peak in the world. He posted having met Dr Lui at Base Camp weeks ago and became dinner buddies for days. One fine evening, they were having such a great conversation, the next day Lui was gone – for good. Bless this mountaineering scientist from Connecticut.

    Swee Chiow, 57,  has made three successful ascents to Everest (1998, 2006 and 2011) and is the first Southeast Asian to climb K2, the more difficult mountain to conquer. Around 5,500 climbers have ascended Mt Everest but only 400 have summited K2.

    An average of 5 climbers die each year since Sir Edmund Hilary and his Nepalese guide,  Sherpa Tenzing Norgay conquered Everest in1953. The morbid tale is that half of the 300 bodies throughout these years were never brought down; never found. 
    The absurd reason that has forced China to contemplate on drawing a "separation line" on the peak of Everest is to prevent climbers from their side being infected with coronavirus by climbers ascending from the Nepal side.

    Beijing says they will send their team of Tibetan mountaineering guides to mark their side of the peak. How it will be done and how it will be enforced is not clear. Another Great Wall, perhaps? 

    According to an  AP report, a mountaineering doyen, Ang Tshering Sherpa states that it is simply not possible to draw any kind of separation on the Everest summit. 

    "The idea that anyone with coronavirus could even reach the summit is impossible because climbers with respiratory difficulties will just not be able to reach that altitude." Sherpa said.

    The window period to ascend Everest and the neighboring peaks is from late April to May each year. This Spring, Nepal granted 408 permits for the climb as against 21 by the Chinese. In my humble opinion, it would more credible for the Chinese to cancel the 21 permits in the interest of health and safety than to draw that ludicrous line. 

    I wish my friend, Swee Chiow a safe climb up Lhotse this week. He had a few scary moments during his acclimatization weeks ago but I have so much confidence in him as he is the fourth person in the world to complete The Explorers Grand Slam, that is the North Pole, South Pole and the top Seven Summits of the world. He is well prepared for this climb, a difficult one by any standards, as the last 300 meters to the summit is a steep ice. 

    Swee Chiow has participated in my Sports Tourism Forum as a motivational speaker and was last here as guest of Mayor Felipe Remollo of Dumaguete City in 2018. Dear to us in the Philippines, Swee Chiow, paddled in a kayak from Sarangani in the south to Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte in 88 days covering 3,205 kilometers, cutting across 50 provinces in 2009.

    Certainly, he and thousands of mountaineers throughout the world will not tolerate this Chinese nonsense of claiming part of the peak of Everest and putting the safety and health of the climbers at stake.


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