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Everest cell tower hibernates for the winter

But will wake for the 2008 Olympics

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The mobile-phone base station constructed 6,500 metres up Mount Everest has been dismantled until next summer, as not a lot of people want to make calls from the mountain during the winter months.

Carried up the mountain by teams of yaks, and constructed in an environment with only 38 per cent of the oxygen at sea level, the base station only exists to ensure those carrying the Olympic torch before the 2008 games can stay in touch as it's carried to the summit of the mountain.

Two other transmitters, at 5,200 metres and 5,820 metres, provide the remaining coverage so calls (and text messages) can be sent from anywhere on the climber's route.

The torch itself will have to be engineered to burn at such an altitude. Before it gets to the stadium the flame will have travelled 85,000 miles over 130 days.

All this is designed to convince the world that China is an important country that can achieve great things. Sending poor chaps to the top of Everest with a lit match seems an extreme way of convincing us of something we already know, but at least they'll be able to phone home when they get there. ®

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