Special report: 2008 Olympic Games¡¡
By Sportswriter Wang Jimin
QOMOLANGMA, Tibet, May 1 (Xinhua) -- Sun Bin, chief of the Olympic Torch Relay Center Qomolangma Operations Team, confirmed on Thursday that the Beijing Olympic flame will follow the traditional route over Mount Qomolangma.
The torch relay, ahead of the Games which start in Beijing on Aug. 8, will include a climb to the top of the world's highest mountain, which spans Nepal and the Chinese region of Tibet.
"There are about 20 routes to the top of Mt. Qomolangma, but the traditional route upon the north slope is among the safest ones," said Sun, also a climber himself and a coach with the Chinese Mountaineering Team.
The traditional and classic route, applied by most of the climbers from the north slope of the world's highest peak, 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, which is known as Everest in the west.
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.
"If everything progresses well, mountaineers can climb the top within four days," said Sun, who helped test the specially designed lantern and torch one year ago over Qomolangma peak.
"Our climbers are so strong that they can come back to the ABC within 8 to 10 hours on the same day they scale the top. Besides, when they climb, they are oxygen-free before the elevation of 7,790 meters.
"The team will include Chinese and ethnic Tibetans and We also have several women climbers," Sun added.
According to him, the exact team could not be finalized as it should be decided by the torch bearers' health conditions on the day they assault.
The cameramen will also form a part of the team which could not be known until the last day either.
"We have first choice team and supporting team, so who will be the best and the fittest, we have to figure out on the last minute."
After running through 19 countries on its international leg, the torch will embark on its three-month tour of the entire country with the first stop in Hong Kong on May 2.
The Olympic torch is to scale Qomolangma as part of the domestic leg, a side relay trying to take a second torch up Mount Qomolangma in May. When the torch is relayed over the summit, the main relay will spare one day for the feat.
The Olympic torch was designed by a Chinese aerospace company to ensure that it will stay alight at high altitude, and weather monitoring equipment has been set up on the Chinese side of the mountain to help ensure a successful ascent.
Ferocious winds and temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 Fahrenheit) at the summit are the major troubles in lighting the torch, but Chinese scientists have finished tests last year to ensure the torch can stay alight in the tough, oxygen-sparse conditions that leave even experienced climbers struggling.
"Wind is the most important factor in climbing and as for Mt. Qomolangma, there are four weather windows in May in which mountaineers can attempt to scale, namely the first week of the month, 10th to 15th, 20th to 25th and at the end of the month, so we stand a great chance of fulfilling the feat for the Beijing Olympics," said an upbeat Sun.
"It is a great honor to scale the world's highest peak and I am also proud to help test the lantern and torch one year ago."
The Chinese Mountaineering Team has scaled Mount Qomolangma for more than 10 times since the 1960 debut.
According to measurements made by scientists in 2005, the altitude of Mount Qomolangma is 8844.43 meters, 3.70 meters lower than the figure obtained in 1975.