Nepali climbers kick off Everest summits
Nine Nepalis reached the summit of Mount Everest on Saturday, opening the route for hundreds of climbers expected to scale the world's highest mountain in the coming weeks.
Weather cleared for the nine to fix ropes to the top of the 8,849-metre (29,032-foot) mountain, which will be used by Everest hopefuls.
Every year, the first summit of Everest is by a team from one of Nepal's expedition organising companies, who prepare the way for hundreds of paying customers to follow.
"The team safely reached the summit of Everest today," coordinator Mingma Gyalje Sherpa of Imagine Nepal Trek and Expeditions told AFP.
The team was led by mountain guide Dawa Gyalje Sherpa, who already had 12 Everest summits to his name.
Early Friday, a trail of headlights snaked up Everest's Khumbu icefall as hundreds followed the footsteps of the rope-fixing team to try to reach the summit in the coming days.
"Climbers are going up as the weather is expected to be favourable for a summit for a few days," Tashi Sherpa of expedition organiser Seven Summit Treks said from base camp.
Nepal has issued at least 466 permits to foreign climbers this year, the $11,000 fee part of total costs for a summit ranging from $45,000 to $200,000.
Since most will need a guide, more than 900 people -- a record -- will try to summit this season, which runs until early June.
This could result in heavy traffic and bottlenecks en route to the summit, especially if there is a shorter climbing window because of unfavourable weather.
Everest guide Abiral Rai said he was excited for the season, but also worried.
"A high number of permits have been issued this year, many people have come to climb Everest. Coupling that with challenging weather, there might be traffic jams," Rai said.
Already three Nepali climbers died on the mountain last month when a block of glacial ice fell and swept them into a deep crevasse as they were crossing the treacherous Khumbu icefall as part of a supply mission.
Fatalities climbed to four when a 69-year-old US mountaineer died this month during his acclimatisation rotation at around 6,400 metres.
Nepal is home to eight of the world's 10 highest peaks and welcomes hundreds of adventurers each spring, when temperatures are warm and winds are typically calm.