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Climbers prepare for final torch assault

world Updated: May 06, 2008 13:36 IST
Nick Mulvenney
Highlight Story

A total of 31 Chinese climbers, 22 of them ethnic Tibetans, are on Mount Everest fixing routes and repairing camps for the final assault on the summit with the Beijing Olympic torch, officials said on Tuesday.

In a departure from the usual tight control of information about the project, China mountaineering team spokesman Zhang Zhijian listed the full team of climbers, which also includes eight Han Chinese and one climber from the Tujia minority.

Zhang would not disclose when the final ascent would take place and said the heavy snow over the weekend had been a minor setback to the task of getting the Olympic flame to the top of the world's highest mountain.

"The heavy snowfall has destroyed the routes we fixed and the camps we had prepared," he told a news briefing. "Our climbing torch bearers are busy rebuilding the routes and camps. It has affected us a little but not too much."

The three women in the climbing team include experienced 39-year-old Ji Ji, whose husband Rena was killed when a rockslide hit his car on his way to climb the 8,080 metre Gasherbrum 1 peak in Pakistan in 2005.

In 1999, Ji Ji and Rena became the third married couple to summit Everest together. Ji Ji returned to Pakistan last year to claim the Gasherbrum 1 peak, the world's 11th highest, for her late husband.

The oldest climber is 45-year-old Luoze, while teenager Ding Chen, still a couple of months shy of his 20th birthday, is the youngest.

Zhang said the team had been selected for their passion for the Olympics, their physical condition and recommendation by their work unit or institution.

"Many of them are not professional climbers, especially the Han Chinese," he said. "They are mainly university students, but they have the passion. They do have experience of climbing at least one summit of more than 6,000 metres."

The flame that will be taken to the Everest peak was taken from the main Olympic torch when it arrived in Beijing in March. Organisers have kept plans for the ascent a closely guarded secret for fear that it may be hit by protests.

Anti-Chinese demonstrations disrupted the international stretch of the longest torch relay in Olympic history after the March 14 riots in Lhasa sparked off unrest in Tibetan areas of western China.