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Olympic torch to be carried to Qomolangma along north slope
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The Olympic flame's first trip to Mount Qomolangma looks just a stone's throw as Zhang Zhijian, spokesman for the Chinese Mountaineering Team, re-confirmed on Wednesday that the Beijing Olympic flame will be taken to the world's highest peak by the traditional climb route along the north slope.

It came six days after Sun Bin, chief of the Olympic Torch Relay Center Qomolangma Operations Team, made the same confirmation.

The Beijing Olympics torch relay is the longest and most ambitious ever planned, traveling 137,000 kilometers across five continents in 130 days. One of the highlights in its global journey is the ascent of the flame over the world's highest mountain which spans Nepal and southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

"Anything can happen at any time," said Shao Shiwei, deputy director of the communications department of the The Beijing Organizing Committee of the 29th Olympic Games (BOCOG).

The traditional and classic route used by most of the climbers starts from the Base Camp with an altitude of 5,200 meters above sea level, then heads for the Advance Base Camp, known as ABC, at 6,500 meters. It then winds upwards the summit with help of three more camps respectively at 7,028, 7,790 and 8,300 meters before scaling the top of Mt. Qomolangma.

According to Sun, there are about 20 routes reaching the top of Mt. Qomolangma, but the traditional route upon the north slope is among the safest ones.

There are 28 km between the 5,200-meter-high Base Camp and the 6,500-meter-high ABC, and from the ABC, there are 20 km to the top.

"The snowfall several days ago had some impact upon the ascent, now our climbers are busy fixing the damaged facilities," said Zhang. "Yesterday, I heard that they have fixed the 7,790-meter-high camp, but I'm not sure whether or when they will take further action."

"If the weather looks good all the time these days, I think I will bring you good news as soon as possible," added Zhang.

After two days' snowfall, the Himalayas welcomed the third consecutive nice day on Wednesday, with warm sun shining and wind blowing softly. Some experienced mountaineers said if everything progresses well the climbers can reach the top of the mountain within four days.

Zhang also said the Chinese Mountaineering team has been talking about the selection of the climbers who will take the final assault from the 8,300-meter-high camp to the top.

"We are discussing the final selection but it is still up in the air," he said.

There are 28 km between the 5,200-meter-high Base Camp and the 6,500-meter-high ABC, and from the ABC, there are 20 km to the top.

Zhang has named a 36-strong team one day earlier, including 24 ethnic Tibetans, 10 Han Chinese, one from Tu ethnic group and one from Tujia ethnic group, but apparently not everyone stands the chance of scaling the top of Mount Qomolangma.

"Mountaineering requires cooperation and carrying the Olympic torch to the top as well makes it much tougher, so the torchbearers need to be physically and mentally strong, and willing to sacrifice personal profits for the holy cause," he said.

"Besides, we consider the ethnic group and gender."

The team, with an average age of 30.2, includes three women climbers.

The Chinese Mountaineering Team has scaled Mount Qomolangma successfully for more than ten times since 1960.

According to a scientific measurement in 2005, the altitude of Mount Qomolangma is 8844.43 meters, 3.70 meters lower than the figure obtained in 1975.

(Xinhua News Agency May 7, 2008)

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