Nepal official says climbers are returning to Mount Everest after last year's deadly avalanche



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KATHMANDU, Nepal — Mountaineers are returning to Mount Everest as the climbing industry recovers from last year's deadly disaster on the world's highest peak, a Nepalese official said Wednesday.

Climbers from four teams have already been issued permits allowing them to climb the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak, another 11 written applications are pending and more applications are expected in the next few days, said Gyanendra Shrestha, an official at Nepal's Mountaineering Department.

The popular spring climbing season began last month and runs until the end of May.

"Last year's disaster has not deterred the climbers from coming back, instead, we are expecting more than 40 teams during the season," Shrestha said. That compares with 31 teams last year.

It was feared that the deaths of 16 local Sherpa guides in an avalanche that led to the early end of the 2014 climbing season would keep away climbers. Following the accident, other guides refused to work and climbers had to abandon their bids.

Nepal's government, which makes millions in permit fees, has been attempting to lure the climbers back. It recently said that mountaineers forced to abandon last year's climb would have their permits extended to 2019.

As well, mountaineering authorities have pledged to improve weather forecasting, security and rescue efforts. More medical staff has been placed at Mount Everest's base camp, and the government has set up a full-time office tent at the camp, with officials providing security, settling disputes among climbers and monitoring the activities of the hundreds of climbers and guides at the camp.

Nepal was criticized last year for not having a rescue plan for disasters and for not having a government presence at the base camp despite charging climbers huge permit fees.

More than 4,000 climbers have Mount Everest since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay. Hundreds of others have died while attempting the climb.

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