Chinese mountaineers will carry the Olympic torch to the top of Mount Everest, making the final assault on the world's tallest peak from a staging camp some 500 yards from the summit, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported.

The head of China's mountaineering team, Wang Yongfeng, said plans for the Everest leg of the torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Olympics were being finalized, the Xinhua report said. From base camp at 17,000 feet, the torch will be taken to a staging area at 27,400 feet and from there to the 29,035-foot summit, Xinhua quoted Wang as saying.

Taking the torch up Everest is one of the most technically challenging and politically charged events Beijing has planned for the Aug. 8-24 Olympics. Aside from the physical challenge of climbing the mountain, which straddles the border of Nepal and Chinese-controlled Tibet, the torch had to be designed to burn in bad weather, low pressure and high altitude.

While Beijing hopes the feat will impress the world, groups critical of China's often harsh 57-year rule over Tibet have decried the torch route as a stunt meant to lend legitimacy to Chinese control.

In April, five American activists were expelled from China after unfurling a banner at Everest base camp that read, "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008," in a dig at the Beijing Games' official slogan "One World, One Dream."