KATHMANDU: More than 5,000 climbers have set foot on the summit of Everest from the Nepal side since Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa first conquered the world’s tallest mountain in 1953.
This spring season, which ended on May 31, saw the fourth highest number of successes with 455 climbers making it to the hallowed peak, the Tourism Department said. Including these 455, the total number of Everesters has reached 5,324.
Giving a breakdown of the summiteers, Khem Raj Aryal, an official at the department that issues climbing permits, said there were 190 foreigners, 32 fee-paying Nepalis and 233 high-altitude climbing guides.
The government issued a record 375 climbing permits this season. An Everest climbing permit costs $11,000 for foreigners and Rs75,000 for Nepalis.
Five people have died on the Nepal side of the mountain this season. Experienced Swiss mountaineer Ueli Steck and Nepali Min Bahadur Sherchan died while preparing to make their bids.
American doctor Roland Yearwood, Slovak climber Vladimir Strba and an Indian climber Ravi Kumar died above the 8,000 metre mark, an area known as the mountain’s ‘death zone’ where oxygen levels fall to dangerously low levels, heightening the risk of altitude sickness.
“This year’s success rate is satisfactory given the short window of good weather,” said Aryal. It was a safer year on Everest in comparison to previous seasons, he said.
“Many climbers had to return as strong winds prevented them from climbing at the end of the season,” he said. “However, we expect 2018 to be better.”
This year, the climbing season was delayed by a few days. The Gurkha Everest Expedition set the pace by mounting the first bid on May 15. The 14 summiteers in the team includes soldiers serving with the Brigade of Gurkhas and high-altitude mountain guides.
Everest saw a record number of climbers this season due to a backlog resulting from the 2014 and 2015 avalanches. The world’s highest peak was closed for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015 due to deadly avalanches. On April 18, 2014, a mass of snow slid down Everest near base camp and killed 16 Nepali guides.
The government had extended the Everest climbing permits of those climbers who were forced to abandon their bids in 2014 until 2019. That year, 326 mountaineers had received climbing permits.
The first post-avalanche ascent took place on May 23, 2014 when Chinese climber Wang Jing reached the summit of Everest. However, her ascent sparked controversy as she had flown over the Khumbu Icefall on a helicopter.
Then in 2015, quake-triggered avalanches killed 19 climbers. Not a single climb was made on Everest in 2015. This time, the government extended the permits to climb Everest for two years until 2017.
Government statistics show that 451 people climbed Everest last year. Among them, 197 were foreigners.
– By Sangam Prasain for TKP