A Restaurant on Mount Qomolangma

Tourists and mountaineers at Mount Qomolangma no longer need to worry about finding food and drink now that a restaurant has opened at the mountain's base camp, more than 5,200 meters above sea level, Xinhua correspondents have learned.

Serving chow to hungry visitors for a month now, the restaurant is half the size of a basketball court and well-equipped with gas, liquefied oil, heating furnaces and high-pressure cookers that are necessary at high altitudes. People can also find cans of Coca- Cola and Nestlé’s coffee in what is most likely the highest restaurant in the world.

Owner Bianba said that his clientele includes climbers and tourists, but mostly Sherpas of Nepal.

The Sherpas, an ethnic group living on the highlands, are able assistants to climbers and can be seen everywhere at the Qomolangma base camp. In their spare time, they often come to the small restaurant for a cup of buttered tea or some mutton.

Tibetan drivers who send climbers and tourists on to the mountain also like to warm themselves at Bianba's restaurant with a cup of buttered tea.

Seven years ago, Bianba opened a restaurant at the foot of the mountain to cater to passersby and his neighbors. The restaurant is a dozen kilometers away from the base camp eatery.

Bianba earns up to 100-Yuan daily from his base camp restaurant. And if prices seem to be higher than in lower elevations, it’s because Bianba has to hire trucks to transport cargo to his restaurant from lower-lying areas. A five-pound tin of buttered tea is sold for eight Yuan -- three Yuan more than the price on less-elevated land.

"The business is good at night," said Bianba, "but I have to close the restaurant before midnight according to regulations of the Mount Qomolangma Nature Reserve Administration."

The regulation is to guarantee that climbers get enough sleep, Xinhua reporters have learned.

Duobujie, an official with the Mount Qomolangma Nature Reserve Administration Branch in Tingri County, said that seven restaurants have been opened on the mountain, all this year.

He said that many people have applied to open restaurants on Qomolangma, but only a few have been approved. He explained that only 10 small restaurants would be permitted on the mountain, as more restaurants would cause environmental pollution.

Duobujie picked up a piece of wastepaper and chucked it into a trash bin during his talk with Xinhua journalists. The Mount Qomolangma Nature Reserve Administration is responsible for collecting garbage in these restaurants on fixed dates and sending the garbage down the mountain for disposal, according to the official.

(Xinhuanet 05/11/2001)