Record number of climbers to attempt to scale Everest

FILE - In this Friday, April 10, 2015, file photo, a porter carries crates containing oxygen tanks, with Mt Lingtren seen behind left, and Mt. Khumbutse, right, on his way towards Everest Base Camp, at Lobuche, Nepal. A Nepalese official says Sherpa workers are fixing the final route to the summit of Mount Everest and the first climb of the season could be days away. (AP Photo/Tashi Sherpa, File)

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Sherpa guides struggled with high winds and snow Friday to prepare the final route to the top of Mount Everest, with a record number of climbers hoping to reach the summit this season, officials said.

The bad weather was slowing the work but the first attempt could occur as soon as Sunday, said government mountaineering official Gyanendra Shrestha, who is stationed at Everest’s base camp.

The workers were fixing ropes above the last camp before the final approach to the summit at South Col at a height of around 8,000 meters (26,240 feet), he said.

The Nepalese Tourism Department issued a record 371 permits this year to people to scale the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) mountain. An equal number or more Nepalese Sherpa guides will accompany them.

Last year, the government issued permits to 289 climbers. Some mountaineers blamed crowding and poor planning for bottlenecks that delayed climbers at high altitudes and possibly contributed to several deaths.

The increased number of climbers this year is likely because of people who were unable to climb in 2014 and 2015 who returned, said Dinesh Bhattarai, chief of the Tourism Department that handles all mountaineering affairs in Nepal.

The 2015 season was scrapped after 19 climbers were killed and 61 injured by an avalanche at the base camp triggered by a massive earthquake. In 2014, an avalanche at the Khumbu Icefall killed 16 Sherpa guides.

Climbers who had permits for the 2014 season were allowed to receive a free replacement permit until 2019, while climbers with 2015 permits were given only until this year. Climbers normally must pay $11,000 to the government for a permit.

The best month to climb Everest is May, when there usually are several periods of favorable weather on the summit.

A renowned Swiss climber, Ueli Steck, who was training to scale Everest was killed last Sunday.

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