Everest’s remote position will soon be a thing of the past after China’s state news agency announced the regime will next week start surfacing the unmade road to base camp on the Tibetan side.
The scheme, part of the preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games, involves asphalting more than 100km (62miles) of track in order to accommodate the Olympic torch party, which plans to summit Everest en route.
Conservationists fear the move will lead to a rush of tourists to the northern base camp which previously was the preserve of mountaineers and determined trekkers. The Chinese government has laid claim to Tibet since its army occupied the Himalayan region in 1950. The Beijing regime says construction of the road will take four months and cost about £10m. The authorities have stated they hope more tourists will visit base camp after the road is built.
Xinhua news agency said: “On completion, the highway will become the major route for tourists and mountaineers who are crowding onto Mount Chomolungma, known in the West as Mount Everest, in ever larger numbers.”
The route taken by the torch will cross five continents during its 130-day journey, including the 8,850m summit. Tibetan activists say China has no rights to occupy the territory, whose spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled following the takeover by the People’s Liberation Army.