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KATHMANDU, APR 14 - Everest is likely to see a record number of climbers this season due to a backlog resulting from last year’s closure of the world’s highest mountain to expeditions following the single deadliest avalanche that buried 16 guides.
The 2014 spring climbing season saw only one expedition, consisting of a Chinese woman and five Sherpa climbers, reaching the summit as all the others were called off following the disaster at the Khumbu Icefall known for its treacherous seracs.
Mountaineering officials expressed fears that the record number of climbers on Everest this season could lead to dangerous overcrowding on the mountain. According to the Department of Tourism, 482 individuals including a few Nepalis had applied for climbing permits as of April 13. The department has issued permits to 428 individuals among them. We are processing the applications of 54 individuals,” said Gyanendra Shrestha, an official at the department. According to him, 109 permits have been issued to those who were forced to abandon their Everest bids last year. “We expect more applications to come as climbers normally apply until the last week of April.”
Mountaineering officials said that with each foreign climber hiring at least one local climbing guide, the total number of climbers was likely to touch 1,000 this season.
“Based on the number of permits issued, there will be a record number of ascents this year. But how many individuals will succeed will depend on the weather and their fitness level,” said Wongchu Sherpa, founder president of the Everest Summiteers Association.
He added that normally 50-60 percent of the climbers succeed in reaching the top as most of them decide to abandon their bids when they reach Camp 3 and Camp 4. The actual climbing will start from mid-May, and the mountaineers spend time on the lower reaches of the Himalaya to acclimatise themselves. According to Sherpa, climbing is unlikely to happen before mid-May as heavy snowfall has delayed route preparation work.
Sherpa said that overcrowding on the mountain or traffic jam could also occur if there is a short weather window.
Climbing For A Reason
Everest will see a number of people striving to set new records and break old ones this season. Min Bahadur Sherchan, 83, will be returning to try to regain the title of the oldest climber. Sherchan, who blamed his failure on the government’s delay in issuing his permit in 2013, has vowed to keep climbing until the age of 84. He formally applied for a permit at the Tourism Department on Monday.
In May 2013, Japanese climber Yuichiro Miura, 80, broke the record for the oldest person to climb Everest. Sherchan and Miura have been rivals for at least seven years now, first clashing in 2008.
Likewise, Leela Bahadur Basnet has applied to set a record by reaching the top of Everest from Kathmandu and returning in 10 days. According to Tourism Department officials, Basnet’s attempt is aimed at raising awareness against human trafficking. He will be wearing a jacket featuring the national flags of 250 countries.
HIV-positive Gopal Shrestha of Pokhara plans to climb Everest with a World Aids Day banner to fight the stigma associated with people living with HIV and AIDS.
Chhurim Sherpa, a Nepali woman mountaineer, will be carrying the late Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes’ bat and jersey to the top of Everest in a symbolic tribute.
A visually impaired 54-year-old South Korean climber Song Kyung-tae is set to climb Everest as the first blind South Korean to attempt to scale the world’s tallest mountain in order to inspire the handicapped and the youth. Song has previously completed four extreme marathon races, namely the Gobi Desert Race, Atacama Crossing, Sahara Race and Antarctica.