Lonely Planet Writer

Tibet’s Everest Base Camp is closed to tourists

The Chinese government has closed off its side of the Everest Base Camp to everyone except those with permits to scale the mountain. The move was taken in response to the huge amount of rubbish that has been piling up at the site.

Travel News - everest base camp closed
The northern Everest base camp in Tibet. Photo by Reggie Lee/Shutterstock

The base camp on the Tibetan side is much more accessible to visitors, who can simply drive up to camp via an asphalt highway. This easy route may have contributed to the problem of rubbish getting out of control. Climbers with a permit to scale the mountain are still permitted in the camp but only 300 of these will be issued every year.

Last spring, clean-up operations recovered eight tonnes of waste but now more drastic measures have been deemed necessary to tackle the issue. This year's clean-up efforts will also focus on recovering bodies that have been on the mountain for years.

Travel News - Rongbuk Monastery prayer hall
The Rongbuk Buddhist Monastery is now the highest point you can reach on the Tibetan side without a climbers permit. Photo by Niall Corbet

If visiting from the Chinese side, the highest visitors can go will now be Rongbuk Monastery, about 5000 metres above sea level and very close to the Base Camp, with an excellent view of the mountain.

The Nepalese Base Camp will still be operating as normal and is even more popular with visitors, despite being only accessible by a trek of more than a week. It welcomed 45,000 trekkers in the 2016/2017 season according to the latest figures from the government of Nepal.

Nepal is launching its own cleanup operation on 25 April with plans to collect 11 more tonnes of waste. This will be a multi-year programme with the view of finally tackling the issue of waste on Mount Everest. Despite launching a deposit programme in 2014 to try and encourage climbers to bring their trash back, there are still issues with leaving behind mountaineering equipment and human waste.