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Default Olympic-Torch Security Troops Block Everest Bloggers' Climb

Climbers on Mount Everest's south side are surreptitiously blogging a standoff with Nepalese soldiers ahead of China's Olympic torch run on the opposite side of the mountain next week.
With a news blackout in effect since Monday at the Everest base camp -- and no news media at camps farther up the mountain -- the situation is being chronicled only by a smattering of international climber/bloggers.
"We saw lots of military staff and one solider carrying a very sophisticated sniper type of gun," Jim Curtin wrote on his blog Monday.
Curtin has been blogging his ascent of Everest for several weeks but is now stuck at Camp 2, at 21,000 feet.
Over the last several days his blog has chronicled the frustrating wait as Nepalese soldiers block climbers from ascending the mountain.
Nepalese soldiers have closed the summit until the Chinese torch run is made, which is expected between May 1 and May 10, depending on the weather. Italian bloggers captured a picture of Nepalese soldiers on the 27th, seen above.
Soldiers have posted a hand-drawn sign, saying, "Dear Climbers. All of you are not allow to go forward from this point till 10 May 2008. Thank you for your cooperation," according to Curtin, who posted a picture). PeakFreaks also noted the existence of the sign.
"Should someone blow past the sign and start climbing the Lohtse face, the skilled sniper may come into play," Curtin wrote.
Mountain teams are supposed to be under a communications blackout, but a group called Climbers Without Borders have set up an anonymous information service that allows climbers to posts updates to MountEverest.net.
In addition, several climbers have their equipment stashed away, according to a climbing-equipment salesman who requested anonymity to protect clients in the field.
Nepalese soldiers arrived at the mountain on the 20th with the orders from Nepal's Home Ministry to stop pro-Tibet protests by "any means necessary" according to the Associated Press.
One young American climber, William Brant Holland, was found carrying a sign that read "Free Tibet, Fuck China" last Friday, and deported back to the United States. Despite the presence of soldiers, Holland said that he was not scared.
"The soldiers are just plainclothes. They're not carrying machine guns, maybe just have one side-arm," Holland told Wired.com by cellphone Tuesday. "They're not gonna shoot anybody."
A combination of small, high-tech gadgets powered by solar panels are enabling wired climbers to keep blogging and remain in touch with their loved ones.
Luis Benitez, a climber who has ascended Everest six times, said that all the technology necessary to run a blog could be stowed in a tiny bag.
"You need a satellite phone, a PDA, special compression software, one cable and a solar panel and that's it," Benitez said.
Benitez said that despite the blackout, he continues to receive phone calls from friends at Camp 1, where Nepalese authorities do not have a military presence.
"People are hiding sat phones in their socks," he said.
While the bloggers on the mountain have generally refrained from directly criticizing the Nepalese or Chinese governments, Benitez, who has previously run afoul of the Chinese government, was more open.
"The Chinese bribed the Nepalese to make the mountain a police state," Benitez said. "I've been a mountaineer my whole life and I've never seen anything like it."


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