At the General Assembly of the UIAA in October 2007, the member federations applauded the promise of the Chinese Mountaineering Association (CMA) to take the UIAA flag to the summit of Mt Everest, as part of the Olympic torch relay. The logic was simple. The torch relay was part of the Olympics, the UIAA is a member of the Olympic family and the Chinese and Nepalese mountaineering federations are members of the UIAA.
At this time there was no mention that any climbing restrictions would be imposed on the climbing community during the pre-monsoon climbing season of 2008. In the last months concern has been expressed by the climbing community about the climbing restrictions and closures placed on Mt Everest until May 10th, 2008 when the torch relay will be completed on the Tibetan side.
Unfortunately these concerns have become a reality as the heightened security measures taken on both sides of the mountain have prevented climbers from ascending the mountain.
The UIAA, which stands for the freedom of access to all mountains, has advised the CMA that it cannot allow its flag to fly over Everest, when the UIAA’s very constituents, the international climbing community, find themselves barred or greatly restricted in their access to the mountain.
We have asked that the CMA take our flag no higher than base camp on the Tibetan side. Thus the UIAA flag would face the same restrictions as the climbers on the south side!
While we wish the Chinese mountaineers involved with the torch relay good and safe climbing, our hearts go out to the many mountaineers who had their ambitions to climb the world’s highest peak curtailed for this season.
Mike Mortimer, UIAA president
Note: Please also see our statement on the access situation during the Chinese Olympic Mount Everest ascent.