Manaslu tragedy may be linked to tension between Chinese authorities and Tibetans
The climbers killed in a weekend avalanche in the Himalayas were part of a crush of mountaineers who came to the slope because of heightened tensions between Chinese authorities and Tibetans, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
China rejected climbing permits for mountaineers hoping to scale peaks in the Tibetan Himalayas, forcing many to crowd onto mountains in Nepal, according to alpine companies. As a result, about 30 teams were registered to climb Mt Manaslu, a 50 per cent increase over last year, Ang Tshering of Asian Trekking agency told AP.
About two dozen climbers were sleeping at a camp high on the mountain early on Sunday when the avalanche swept over them. Rescuers have so far brought down the bodies of eight victims — four French, one each from Germany, Italy and Spain, and a Nepali guide.
Tibet is a sensitive area for China, which sometimes limits access for foreign tourists. It has also in the past restricted the number of permits issued to climbers, and even stopped issuing them in 2008 while Chinese climbers took the Olympic torch to the top of Mt Everest before the Beijing Games. Relations between Tibet and the Chinese government have been volatile this year, as many Tibetans set themselves on fire to bring attention to what they say is their suffering under China’s repressive policies. Chinese officials did not accept applications for climbing permits this year, without giving any reason, said Tshering.
As a result, climbers who were planning to climb Cho Oyu or Shisapangma in the Tibetan region changed their destination to Manaslu, a popular choice because it was not as difficult a climb as other high mountains, Tshering said. It is not clear if the extra people on Manaslu contributed to the tragedy. What does appear clear is that many would not have been on that mountain had their Tibetan climbing permits been accepted.
Climbers also blame climate change for some of the recent tragedies on the Himalayan peaks.
“The uncertainty of the weather condition has increased in the past few years on the mountains. The melting glaciers on the mountains make the grounds unstable,” Zimba Zangbu of the Nepal Mountaineering Association told AP. “When it rains in the rest of the country, it snows on the mountains. Manaslu was also blanketed with soft snow,” he said, adding that this type of snowfall does not get packed on the mountain surface and can lead to avalanches. nepalnews.com