Kathmandu: Eight Nepali climbers reached the top of Mount Everest on Tuesday, opening the route for a potentially record number of climbers to summit the world’s highest mountain in the coming weeks.
A team of experienced mountaineers were waiting for powerful jet streams raging around the top of Everest to subside to fix ropes to the summit for foreign climbers.
“It has been difficult this year and we were getting worried. But the weather finally improved for the eight to reach the top,” Iswari Paudel of Himalayan Guides Nepal, the company assigned to fix the ropes, told international media.
Poudel said that many teams were preparing to summit in the next few days.
Nepal has issued a record 378 permits costing $11,000 each to mountaineers for this year’s spring climbing season, sparking fears of overcrowding if the weather cuts down the number of climbing days.
Most Everest hopefuls are escorted by a Nepali guide, meaning about 750 climbers will tread the same path to the top of the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) peak in the coming weeks.
At least 140 others are preparing to scale Everest using the northern route from Tibet, according to expedition operators, potentially taking the total past last year’s record.
Everest attracts hundreds of mountaineers each spring, when a window of good weather opens up between late April and the end of May, prompting a rush for the top.
A record 807 climbers reached the summit of Mount Everest last year, with 563 people climbing from the south and 244 from the northern flank in Tibet.
The mountain also claimed the lives of five climbers, including an experienced Sherpa guide who was knocked down a crevasse by a rescue helicopter.
A boom in climbers has made mountaineering a lucrative business since Sir Edmund Hillary and sherpa Tenzing Norgay made the first ascent in 1953.
There are mounting concerns, however, that the numbers are unsustainable, with fears of dangerous overcrowding as well as a worsening environmental situation.
In April a clean-up team brought back three tonnes of garbage from the mountain left behind by climbers including climbing gear, gas canisters and excrement.