First climber to attempt Everest ascent since Nepal earthquakes
BY GOPAL SHARMA, KATHMANDU, (REUTERS): A Japanese climber will be the first to attempt to scale Mount Everest since a massive earthquake in April triggered avalanches that killed 18 climbers, shutting an industry that feeds thousands of people across Nepal.
Nobukazu Kuriki, 33, of Tokyo will make a solo attempt on the 8,850-metre (29,035 feet) Everest summit along the normal Southeast Ridge route pioneered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953, the Nepal government said on Sunday.
“I have chosen to come now to help Nepal, which is in troubles because of the earthquake,” Kuriki told reporters.
Kuriki will climb in the autumn season that starts next month, which is not usually popular among climbers because of extreme cold and shorter periods of daylight.
“Kuriki is climbing at a time when there is confusion in the world about the safety in Nepal after the earthquake,” Nepal’s tourism minister Kripasur Sherpa said after handing out the climbing permit.
“This will be an example for other visitors to come to Nepal which is safe for mountain climbing.”
Two earthquakes in April and May killed 8,900 people in Nepal, including scores of climbers and foreign trekkers.
About 400 foreign climbers who were at the Everest base camp at the time of the earthquakes were forced to abandon their attempt after avalanches destroyed their route through the Khumbu Icefall and sherpas said the slopes were too dangerous to climb.
Thousands of tourists and trekkers, a key source of income for the impoverished Himalayan country, headed home and many hotels and trekking agencies said they had seen heavy cancellations.
Tourism accounts for 4 percent of Nepal’s gross domestic product and employs more than 500,000 people. The government fears tourist arrivals could fall by 40 percent this year.
Beside Kuriki, 13 foreign expeditions have been permitted to climb other mountains in Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 peaks above 8,000 meters ( 26,307 feet) from the sea level.
(Editing by Krishna N. Das and Gareth Jones)
:: Japanese climber Kuriki Nobukazu holds a flag of Nepal during an announcement of his solo expedition of Mount Everest in Kathmandu August 20, 2010. (Photo: REUTERS-GOPAL CHITRAKAR)