KATHMANDU (Reuters) - A Nepali sherpa led a nine-man team to the top of Mount Everest on Wednesday, becoming the first to scale the world’s tallest peak from the Nepali side since a deadly earthquake in 2015 and a fatal avalanche the year before forced climbers to retreat.
The mountain guide was part of a rope-fixing team preparing the final stretch to the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) summit, running along the Southeast Ridge route, for teams to make their own attempts in the next few days.
“Sherra Gyalgen Sherpa reached the top of Sagarmatha at 5.05 p.m. (1120 GMT),” said Ang Tshering Sherpa, chief of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), using the mountain’s Nepali name.
“In all nine sherpa climbers scaled the top,” tourism official Gyanendra Shrestha told Reuters from Everest Base Camp.
Laying the final stretch of ropes was delayed slightly on Wednesday by heavy snow high on the mountain.
The ascents were the first in three years after two years of tragedy halted climbing on Everest.
An avalanche in the treacherous Khumbu Icefall killed 16 mountain guides in 2014, and 18 people died a year ago when an earthquake sent a massive snowslide careening into Base Camp.
In total, 9,000 people were killed across Nepal in the 7.8 magnitude quake whose first anniversary the country has just commemorated.
Climbing outfit Jagged Globe tweeted that its Everest team was at Camp 3 and in good spirits. “If rope fixed to summit today, they’ll move to South Col Thursday for summit attempt,” it said.
At least 289 climbers and their guides were at different high camps waiting for a “window” of clear weather to open for a final ascent, officials said.
Multiple teams, perhaps 100 people, were looking to summit from May 14 to 16, veteran mountaineer and blogger Alan Arnette said in a post on Wednesday.
Numbers are well below the nearly 700 who summitted in 2013, showing how badly climbing and adventure tourism in the Himalayan nation have been hit by the Everest tragedies and last year’s quake, which destroyed a million homes.
Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Clarence Fernandez