Nepal Deports U.S. Climber Found on Mount Everest With 'Free Tibet' Sign

Nepal has imposed a near-blackout on communications on its side of Mt. Everest, trekking company officials said, hours after the government acknowledged it had deported an American mountaineer caught at the Everest base camp with a "Free Tibet" banner.

The government has also ordered a BBC news crew from the Everest base camp, the British broadcaster reported.

Nepal, anxious not to hurt relations with Beijing, is trying to enforce a strict ban on protests during China's upcoming Olympic torch relay to the summit of the world's highest mountain. Dozens of armed Nepalese soldiers have been posted at Mt. Everest's base camp and at Camp 2, a lower stop for mountaineers.

The border between the two countries cuts across the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit.

Tourism Ministry official Krishna Gyawali said Tuesday that U.S. mountaineer William Brant Holland of Midlothian, Virginia, was expelled from Nepal for violating regulations.

Holland, who left Nepal on Monday, was found at the Everest base camp last week with a "Free Tibet" banner and told to leave the mountain. When he arrived in the capital, Katmandu, he was questioned by officials, who ordered him to leave the country for violating a ban on anti-China activities.

He has also been banned from all mountaineering activities in Nepal for the next two years.

Holland was the first climber expelled from the mountain to prevent protests during the planned torch relay by Chinese climbers to the Everest summit ahead of this summer's Beijing Olympics.

The relay, expected to start soon, will take place on the Chinese side of the mountain. But Nepal's government, under pressure from Beijing, has posted soldiers on its side and banned climbing near the summit from May 1 to 10.

Police and soldiers have been ordered to stop protests on the mountain using whatever means necessary, including the use of weapons, although the use of deadly force is authorized only as a last resort.

A British Broadcasting Corporation team, meanwhile, was told Monday by Nepalese officials to leave the Everest base camp, the BBC said.

Only climbers with permits to climb Everest are allowed to stay in the base camp area.

Soldiers and officials have also banned the use of satellite phones and radios on the mountain, and have forbidden photography at higher elevations, according to the BBC and trekking company employees in Katmandu. The trekking company employees spoke on condition of anonymity because they didn't want to alienate government officials.

Climbers are allowed occasional use of e-mails, but only under the supervision of authorities, the employees said.

Government officials declined to comment on communications restrictions.

Climbers will not be allowed to go past Everest's Camp 2 — at 6,500 meters (21,325 feet) — until after the Chinese finish their torch run, which is expected to take place in May. The harsh weather on Everest usually allows only two brief windows, normally lasting anywhere from a couple of days to a week, when conditions are favorable enough for the push to the summit.

The threat of protests on Everest comes from the thousands of Tibetan exiles who have been living in Nepal for years. They have been holding almost daily protests in front of the United Nations office and the Chinese Embassy in Katmandu against Beijing's rule over their region.

Police broke up yet another of their protests Tuesday outside the Chinese Embassy's visa office, detaining 130.