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Asia travel

Nepal’s ‘ice doctors’ prepare Everest for the climbing season

Expert mountaineers to open routes and fix ladders from March 7, in the hope that tourists will return for the upcoming spring season

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 February, 2016, 7:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 February, 2016, 7:01pm

Nepal’s experienced “ice doctors” are preparing to return to Everest to ready the mountain for the upcoming climbing season, almost one year after a huge earthquake triggered a deadly avalanche.

Eight of the mountaineers and their support teams pray before leaving for base camp to fix routes through a treacherous icefall for climbers, says a top official.

“Starting from March 7, the expert team will continue opening expedition routes and fixing ladders and ropes for the upcoming season,” says Nishan Shrestha, CEO of the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, which manages the peak.

Nepal is hoping the April-May season will see climbers return to the world’s highest mountain, providing much-needed revenue to the impoverished country. Nepal has been hit hard by falling tourism following last April’s earthquake, which killed nearly 9,000 people.

Ice doctors, highly-skilled mountaineers, are the first men on the peak every season, using ropes and ladders to build a route across plunging crevasses and constantly shifting ice, including the dangerous Khumbu icefall.

Some returned last September to prepare for the autumn season, when just a few climbers attempt the summit. But they are needed for the main spring season when hundreds of climbers normally take advantage of good weather conditions on the 8,848-metre mountain.

Mountaineering is a huge revenue earner for Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 peaks over 8,000 metres.