Mountaineering flourishes in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region

Members of the China Tibet Mountaineering Team pose for a group photo after summiting Mount Qomolangma in 1999. (Photo/Courtesy of Tibet Autonomous Region Sports Bureau)

By Li Yang

On May 25, 1960, at 4:20 a.m., Wang Fuzhou, Gonpo, and Qu Yinhua, mountaineers with an average age of 24, climbed to the top of Mount Qomolangma from its northern slope, considered so high that even birds cannot fly over. It was the first time for the Chinese to summit the world’s highest peak, and also the first time for mankind to summit Mount Qomolangma from its northern slope.

“At that time, our climbing equipment was quite rudimentary. Since we didn’t have a metal ladder, we built a human ladder to climb the mountain. We thought we had to reach the top, even if only one of us could do it,” said Tibetan mountaineer Gonpo, who still vividly remembers the feat of great audacity.

“The first thing we did after reaching the top of the mountain was to erect our national flag. We wanted to show the world that the Chinese can do it,” Gonpo added.

On October 1, 1960, the Tibet Mountaineering Camp, which later became the China Tibet Mountaineering Team, was established, with Gonpo and his teammates who participated in the 1960 Mount Qomolangma climb forming the backbone of the camp.

After the first successful ascent of the world’s tallest mountain in 1960, generations of Tibetan mountaineers have gone on to create new world mountaineering records: more than 300 people have climbed Mount Qomolangma; more than 460 people have reached the summits of mountains over 8,000 meters above sea level; three people have conquered the world’s 14 peaks above 8,000 meters; and two members of the China Tibet Mountaineering Team have accomplished the magnificent feat of reaching the tops of the highest mountains on each of the world’s seven continents and hiking to the South and North Poles.

In 2020, when the 60th anniversary of the China Mountaineering Team in Tibet was marked, a Chinese survey team reached the peak of Mount Qomolangma and remeasured the peak height, which is 8,848.86 meters. At the same time, the team set a new record for the longest stay at the top of the peak by Chinese people.

“The China Tibet Mountaineering Team mountaineers have played a role in all significant activities and major events involving the sport of mountaineering, including pushing the boundaries of mountaineering, re-measurement of the height of Mt. Qomolangma and the Olympic Torch Relay at the top of the summit,” said Sonam, head of China’s mountaineering team in Tibet.

The team has also carried out joint mountaineering activities with many countries and regions on behalf of China, making mountaineering a major lever for making China a strong country in sports and an important bridge for exchanges between China and foreign countries, according to Sonam. .

As times change, the sport of mountaineering has also become increasingly rich in content, with rock climbing, ski mountaineering and other events gradually growing out of it.

Nevertheless, the spirit of being fearless of danger and difficulty, of tenacity, solidarity and cooperation, and of reaching new heights has been passed down from mountaineers in Tibet from generation to generation.

“In addition to maintaining our strengths in mountaineering expeditions, we should also strive for better performance in competitions,” said Ngawang Tashi, deputy head of China’s mountaineering team in Tibet.

After Beijing and its neighboring city Zhangjiakou in north China’s Hebei Province won the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, China’s Tibet Mountaineering Team took preparations for the sporting event and China’s vision of involving 300 million people in winter sports as an opportunity to boost the development of ice and snow sports in Tibet and create the first team area ski drive.

The team has selected exceptional athletes, regardless of their professional background, for cross-country skiing, snowboarding and ski mountaineering.

“In less than four to five years, these young athletes who were completely new to skiing gradually developed an enthusiasm for these skiing events,” said Ngawang Tashi.

What is particularly exciting is that Tsering Dradul and Yongqing Lhamo have finally qualified for Beijing 2022 and become the first Tibetan athletes to compete in the Winter Olympics, Ngawang Tashi added.

These brilliant achievements could not have been achieved without the mountaineering team’s talent cultivation system which has matured significantly over the past few years.

The school of mountaineering guides located in the northern suburbs of Lhasa, capital of Tibet, is the only mountaineering school in China and the second of its kind in the world. The students there are mainly teenagers of Tibetan ethnicity who are interested in skiing and mountaineering. They receive systematic and professional training at school.

So far, the school has trained more than 300 mountaineering professionals, including mountain guides, continuously providing reserve forces for China’s mountaineering team in Tibet and the mountaineering industry. high altitude mountaineering.

In an effort to bring mountaineering closer to the public, the Tibet Mountaineering Team of China has actively promoted the Tibet Mountaineering Conference, which has been held for 20 consecutive sessions and has attracted many mountaineering enthusiasts. towards climbing the snow-capped mountains of Tibet.

The event not only includes splendid skiing and mountaineering competitions, but also mountaineering training, ice and snow sports themed cultural exhibition and other activities, playing an important role in the stimulation of the integrated development of mountaineering, the sports industry and the tourism sector.

Drawing on its rich pool of professional mountaineers, the China Tibet Mountaineering Team has been actively engaged in mountain rescue and has participated in more than 30 major rescue missions, including the evacuation of mountaineers after a devastating earthquake in Nepal in 2015. During the climbing season each year, the team of mountaineers clears the mountain areas of garbage and evacuates it.

“We must protect the high mountains, the blue sky and the white clouds of the snow-capped Qinghai-Tibet Plateau,” Sonam noted.

Looking to the future, the China Tibet Mountaineering Team is making active efforts to adapt to the changes and make progress in its main work priorities, including the industrialization of mountaineering, regular activities for the protection of the environment in the mountains and the scientific development of mountain rescue.

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