Attempts on Everest have been put on hold after the Chinese government said it would allow no mountaineering on the Tibetan side of the peak in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.
Everest's southern aspect from Nepal
The authorities say they fear ‘heavy climbing activities and crowded climbing routes’ pose a safety hazard. Opponents of the closure say it is a heavy-handed move to allow the Olympic torch carriers’ ascent of the world’s highest mountain and to ensure there are no protests.
China has occupied Tibet since 1950. Nepalese authorities have so far resisted attempts by Beijing to force it to close its southern side of the mountain, which straddles the border between the two countries.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the vertigo-suffering heart-attack survivor, is due to attempt the Everest summit this year. His expedition leader Kenton Cool said he was confident the ascent would go ahead as planned, from Nepal.
The Chinese authorities have closed the mountain to all climbers from their side, from March to June.
This week, 300 Buddhist monks protested against the Chinese regime in Tibet’s capital Lhasa.