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Everest Olympic torch diary

As the Olympic torch makes its way around the world before arriving in Beijing for the Games in August, the BBC's Jonah Fisher joins it for the high point of its trip - on Mount Everest.

In the fifth of his diary instalments, he takes a tour of Everest base camp.

Everest base camp
A rare treat: Everest base camp

On Wednesday we had a treat.

After lengthy negotiations with the border police our minders secured us permission to visit Everest base camp 5km from our media village.

With strict instructions not to film the numerous military trucks on the way, we were driven to the tented camp that forms the command centre for both the climbing team as well as the official Chinese media.

Stop filming

My colleague Peter Emmerson and I climbed a small ridge with a great view of both the tents of base camp and Mount Everest. We attempted to do a piece to camera.

Unfortunately it seems the military are everywhere in base camp. We were soon accused of filming military areas and forced to stop filming.

Clambering breathlessly down from the ridge we were herded towards our next briefing. In a week that has seen a lot of pointless briefings, this one broke new ground.

Firemen demonstrate their equipment at base camp
Where's the fire? Base camp firefighters at the ready

A crew of firemen explained how in this rocky, barren and almost entirely plantless landscape there was a severe risk of fire. There followed a demonstration of their surprisingly powerful hose.

Feeling more mutinous than ever we were hauled off to meet the head weatherman of the torch team, Yang Xing Guo.

It was clear that something had happened before his words were even translated. The gasps from the Chinese journalists said it all. After days of a news blackout we were about to receive a new piece of information.

"It would be hard to climb the summit today," he said. "It's certainly not possible in the next three days because there is wind above 100km/h."

Could it be that Mr Yang had not been told in advance? Didn't he know that we were supposed to be told nothing about the climbers' plans?

World of answered questions

Gleefully we walked off to the next event clutching our fact for the day. The smiles lasted only a few minutes though until the flipside began to sink in. We could be here in the bitter cold and high altitude for quite a while.

Next on the base camp tour was a briefing on the specially-designed lantern and torch that will be used to ascend the mountain.

EVEREST TORCH DIARY
Media briefing in a tent at Base Camp

While looking very similar to the globetrotting torch, these flame-carriers will burn a solid state fuel which I'm told stays alight better at low oxygen levels.

The lanterns will be used to take the flame to the top of Everest where a special lighter will be used to ignite an Olympic torch. If all goes according to China's plan it will be that image of the torch on Everest that will be on front pages around the world.

Having had two consecutively interesting briefings, we staggered in shock to the hospitality tent where we were plied with coffee and biscuits. Our three-hour stay in base camp at an end, we got back on our bus to be driven through the checkpoints back to the media centre.

We'd had a tantalising taste of a world where people actually answer our questions.



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