By SANGAM PRASAIN
Two hundred and eighty nine climbers are in a bid to exploit a short window of good weather, which formally begins next week, to stand atop Mt Everest. Among the bidders, 160 are new climbers.
Dambar Parajuli, president of Expedition Operators´ Association of Nepal, said the Icefall Doctors have prepared the routes till Camp III as of Friday.
“They have fixed double ropes, for ascent and descent, at the Camp III to make climbing easier and reduce congestion.”
The Icefall Doctors were to start fixing the ropes at Camp IV on Saturday. “Official reports are yet to come,” Parajuli said.
The route starts from the Everest Base Camp at 5,380m. Camp I, II and III are at the altitudes of 6,065m, 6,500m and 7,470m, respectively.
From the Camp IV (7,920m), the climbers will make their final summit push. They will reach the “balcony” (8,400m) first, and launch the Everest push, which normally starts around midnight.
“If the weather behaves well, climbing will start in seven to eight days,” said Gyanendra Shrestha, an official at the Department of Mountaineering that issues climbing permits.
“The number of Everest aspirants has deceased this year compared to last year, but the figure is not that disappointing given back-to-back disasters,” he said.
Last year, 356 mountaineers had acquired climbing permits. But there were no Everest bids in the spring of 2015 due to avalanches set off by the devastating April 25 earthquake that killed 19 climbers, including high-altitude guides and helpers at the base camp and the Khumbu Icefall.
The government has extended their permits for two years until 2017.
The number of issued permits dropped this year as the government made late announcement for extending last year’s permits, mountaineering agencies said.
“The number dropped this season as the climbers did not have enough time to prepare. They also need to arrange hefty amount of money,” said Shrestha. “However, 2017 is expected to be better.”
The government collected more than Rs210 million in royalties by issuing Everest permits this season. The government charges $11,000 per foreign climber.
In April 2014, there was an avalanche near Everest Base Camp which killed 16 Nepali guides. Rescuers pulled out 13 bodies and the remaining three were never recovered as search and rescue operations were called off due to “too much risk”. Subsequently, the mission was called off.
The government had also extended the Everest climbing permits until 2019 of those climbers who were forced to abandon the mission in 2014. That year, 326 mountaineers had received climbing permits.