The Chinese government is blocking non-climbers from visiting the base camp on its side of the world’s highest mountain, Everest, known in China as Qomolangma.
Mountaineers and tourists who were making the trek to the basecamp at around 17,000 feet were leaving too much trash, authorities said when they announced the restrictions last month.
Since then, the news has gone viral on Chinese social media and on Thursday a Chinese official clarified the restrictions to state news agency Xinhua. Until further notice, ordinary tourists will have to stop at Rongpo monastery at around 5,000 meters above sea level.
Mountaineers with climbing permits, of which fewer are being issued this year, can continue to the base camp at an altitude of 5,200 meters, and higher, the South China Morning Post reports.
Some 40,000 tourists visited the Everest base camp in 2015, but only a few hundred a year have climbing permits to go higher. Cleanup crews collected an astonishing 8.4 tons of garbage from the snowy outcrop last year and are busily collecting trash while the block is in place. Officials anticipate that tourists and more climbers will be allowed to return under new rules in the future.
Yet it’s not just trash that’s concerning officials: they also plan to try to recover the remains of climbers who died on the upper reaches of the mountain, a notoriously perilous and difficult task.