Scattered with the debris of more than 50 years of climbing -- oxygen canisters, tents and backpacks -- Mt. Everest has been called the world's highest garbage dump.
China is moving to clean up its northern side of the mountain and protect its fragile Himalayan environment. Last week, an official announced a trash-collection campaign and indicated that fewer climbers and other visitors may be allowed next year.
"Our target is to keep even more people from abusing Mt. Everest," Zhang Yongze, Tibet's environmental protection chief, said, according to the New China News Agency.
Everest's 29,035-foot peak, the world's tallest, lies on the border between China and Nepal. Overcrowded routes and the accumulation of debris have led to calls for the mountain to be temporarily closed.
In Nepal, where most visitors begin their Everest treks, the government has tightened its laws, requiring climbers and guides to carry down gear and trash or forfeit a $4,000 deposit.
Although China isn't known to have a similar rule, it does forbid vehicles from driving to the 16,995-foot-high base camp, Zhang said, in an effort to preserve the melting Rongbuk glacier.
Zhang said his bureau planned to launch a refuse-collecting campaign in the first half of 2009 and was urging that the number of tourists and mountaineers be restricted.
Jim Whittaker, 79, the first American to conquer Mt. Everest, welcomed the idea of new restrictions.
"For one thing," he said, "if you have a bottleneck on the mountain, you can get some seriously dangerous conditions."
Virgin Galactic, brainchild of British billionaire Richard Branson, is courting Russia's nouveau riche as space-trip customers. At least 11 have signed up to pay $200,000 for a few minutes of suborbital thrills, said the company, which hopes to start flying by the end of 2010.
3 Vatican City
Thou shalt not harm the environment during thy vacation. That, in effect, was the message from the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. It urged travelers to take less luggage, vacation at spots in closer harmony with nature and plant trees to offset their carbon footprints.
China moves to clean up Mt. Everest
An official announces a trash-collection campaign and urges a restriction on the number of visitors.
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