KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal has named two Himalayan peaks near Mount Everest after Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and opened them to foreigners for climbing, a month after a deadly avalanche killed 16 sherpa guides.
The conquest of Everest by New Zealand’s Hillary and his Nepali guide Tenzing in 1953 popularized Nepal as a destination for mountain climbers. The Himalayan country is home to eight of the 14 peaks in the world over 8,000 meters (26,247 ft).
Tilakram Pandey, a senior official at the Tourism Ministry, said the peaks - Hillary at 7,681 m (25,200 ft) and Tenzing at 7,916 m (25,971 ft) - were unclimbed so far.
Last month's tragedy forced hundreds of foreign climbers to abandon their attempts on Everest, and the renaming exercise marked an attempt to revive Nepal's appeal to mountaineers.
"We believe climbers will be attracted to these peaks and help promote mountaineering activities," Pandey told Reuters on Thursday. "Many foreign Alpine clubs and climbers have shown interest in the opening of these mountains."
Separately, the Tourism Ministry said two Nepali guides and an Indian climber were missing in snow since Tuesday while climbing the Yalung Kang peak in east Nepal.
A search was being conducted "very sincerely" to find the missing climbers, it said in a statement.
Tourism accounts for 4 percent of Nepal's gross domestic product, and fees paid by climbers for permits are a major source of income for the cash-strapped government.
Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Ron Popeski