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Mt. Everest's Popularity Is Still Climbing

January 04, 1987|BINAYA GURUACHARYA | Associated Press

KATMANDU, Nepal — In 33 years, 200 men and women have stepped atop Mt. Everest, and there still is a great lust among alpinists to scale the Earth's highest peak.

Nepalese officials say they receive more inquiries about climbing the 29,028-foot Everest than about any other peaks in the massive Himalayan ranges.

Eight of the world's 14 tallest peaks, all more 26,240 feet, are in Nepal.

Fifteen alpine clubs from around the world have applied to carry out expeditions to Everest next spring. But the Nepalese Tourism Ministry officials who sort out the applications normally allow only three groups per season to climb the mountain.

Expeditions Planned

A group of Czechs have secured a permit to ascend the mountain's southern face in the spring, and a Swedish expedition will try to scale the mountain via the traditional southeast ridge, which was used by Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, when they became the first to reach the top of Mt. Everest in 1953.

Only the steep west ridge route has not yet been assigned to any expedition for the spring.

Two South Korean winter Everest expeditions currently are trying to reach the top during the coldest season, from December to February.

Even a traditionally non-mountaineering nation such as Malaysia has applied to conduct a Himalayan expedition, selecting Everest as its target for 1997.

Africa's First

The Kenyan minister of public works, housing and physical planning, Kenneth Matiba, also is negotiating for a permit to lead a team, which would be Africa's first expedition to Everest.

More than 100 people have lost their lives in the last three decades while trying to climb Mt. Everest, and many more have retreated after suffering dehydration and frostbite.

Shambhu Tamang, 31, of Katmandu, has scaled Everest twice, first in 1973 at the age of 18--still a record among climbers--from the southern Nepalese route. He repeated his climb in 1985, following the northern face on the Tibetan side.

Although some mountaineers lately have taken to using alpine-style climbing in the Himalayas without Sherpa support, Tamang says Everest is among the peaks that climbers can't do by themselves.

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