China closes its Everest base camp to tourists as part of clean up campaign

China has made good on its promise to cut the number of climbers attempting to scale Mount Everest by closing the base camp on its side of the mountain. The move is part of a massive clean up campaign by China, which claims the area has been inundated by human waste, trash and abandoned climbing equipment.

Now, only 300 climbers a year with specific permits will be allowed to legally trek past a monastery that's at an elevation of around 17,000 feet.

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Climbers who try to reach base camp without a specialized permit will be turned back, the South China Morning Post reported.

“The key area (of the reserve) will be closed for tourism for an indefinite period, mainly for ecological conservation,” Tang Wu, from the tourism commission of Tingri county, which is home to Mount Everest, said.

China designates the area of the reserve over 5,200 meters (17,000 feet) above sea level as the “key area”.

The total number of climbers seeking to summit the world’s highest peak at 8,850 meters (29,035 feet) from the north will be limited and the climbing season restricted to spring.

The cleanup efforts will include the recovery of the bodies of climbers who died at more than 8,000 meters (26,246 feet) up the mountain, they said.

Parts of Everest are in China and Nepal. Each year, about 60,000 climbers and guides visit the Chinese north side of the mountain, which China refers to by its Tibetan name, Mount Qomolangma.

China has set up stations to sort, recycle and break down garbage from the mountain, which includes cans, plastic bags, stove equipment, tents and oxygen tanks.

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On the Nepalese side, mountaineering expedition organizers have begun sending huge trash bags with climbers during the spring climbing season to collect trash that can then be winched by helicopters back to the base camp.

Everest claims multiple victims each year, often in the “death zone” above 8,000 meters (26,246 feet), where the air is too thin to sustain human life.

In 2017, 648 people summited Everest, including 202 from the north side, according to the nonprofit Himalayan Database.

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Six people were confirmed to have died on the mountain that year, one of them on the north side.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.