Missing climbers spotlight dangers of mountain treks

11:10, November 05, 2009      

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CHENGDU: Two recent incidents in Sichuan province that left six foreign mountain climbers missing and presumed dead have underscored to the public the dangers in adventure climbing.

Survival chances for the missing foreign mountaineers are very slim, an official said yesterday.

Last year's earthquake changed the landscape of some mountains, making mountaineering perilous in Sichuan province, said Lin Li, secretary-general of the Sichuan Mountaineering Association.

In the first incident, two Russian climbers were buried in an avalanche last Wednesday on Siguniang Mountain, whose peak is 6,250 m above sea level, in the Aba Tibetan autonomous prefecture.

Then on Oct 17, four Hungarian climbers started scaling Renzhong Mountain, whose summit is 6,079 m above sea level, in the Ganzi Tibetan autonomous prefecture.

Their plans were to return to the camp 3,100 m above sea level on Oct 31 so they could go to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, on Nov 4. They were to leave China to return to their home country on Nov 5, but they did not show up on Oct 31.

Sichuan has more than 200 mountains between 4,000 and 7,000 m above sea level. Many of the mountains have complicated geological structures and the weather can change quickly, which makes mountaineering difficult and sometimes dangerous.

Soil on many of the mountains is loose in the aftermath of the magnitude-8.0 earthquake on May 12 last year.

All these factors bring danger, but also have a strong appeal to overseas climbers wanting a challenge, Lin said.

Since 2007, more than 1,000 overseas climbers scaled mountains in Sichuan after seeking permits from Lin's association.

With the permits, the association provides liaison officers and interpreters. Because the climbers have reported their routes to the association in their application for the permits, the association has provided aid in times of trouble, Lin said.

But many overseas climbers have climbed the mountains without applying for permits. Between July and August this year, 150 overseas climbers did so in the province.

Source:China Daily
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