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Mountaineering charges scaled up
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People wishing to go mountain-climbing in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region will now have to pay more for the privilege.

The Xinjiang development and reform commission and the department of finance have set new fees.

Teams consisting of 11 members or less will have to pay 25,000 yuan ($3,600) to scale a mountain above 8,000 m and 500 yuan for a mountain of 3,000-3,500 m.

A Xinjiang sports bureau official said yesterday the fees had been raised to better protect the environment and the mountain ranges.

He said the new fees were "somewhat higher" than the old ones which were implemented in 1996. He declined to disclose what the old fees were.

Zhang Qixing, head of Peking University's Mountaineering Club, said a team of 13 students will climb Koskulak Peak (7,028 m) in southern Xinjiang next month.

The team has obtained approval from the General Administration of Sport which is in charge of peaks over 7,000 m.

"We are still looking for sponsors to support us," Zhang said. "The new fees will not dampen our enthusiasm for mountaineering."

Nan Guohuan, vice-chairman of the Xinjiang Mountaineering Association, said he believed the new fees "will not discourage climbers, most of whom are financially well off".

He said raising the fees was in line with general price rises throughout the country.

Every year, more than 150 foreign and 100 local climbers visit Xinjiang.

"The number of local climbers has been increasing in the past years despite the fact that Xinjiang is rather remote," Nan said.

Most of the climbers have a better environmental awareness than ordinary people and refrain from littering, he said.

The autonomous region, which covers one-sixth of China's land area, boasts many high peaks, such as Muztag Ata (7,546 m), known as "Father of Ice Mountain"; Chogori Peak (8,611 m), the world's second highest peak; and Bogda Peak (5,445 m), popular among inexperienced climbers.

Nan said the best time to go mountain-climbing in Xinjiang is between late May and early September.

(China Daily June 5, 2008)

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