Nepal's government has opened Mount Everest to climbers for the first time since the deadly April earthquake. A Japanese mountaineer is now set to start his climb to the top of the world during the risky autumn season.
Tourism Minister Kripasur Sherpa handed the permit to the Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki at a Sunday ceremony in Kathmandu. The minister also praised Kuriki's expedition as a "positive example" for other visitors.
"Kuriki is climbing at a time when there is confusion in the world about the safety in Nepal after the earthquake," Sherpa told reporters.
The Himalayan country closed Mount Everest to visitors in April, after a massive earthquake killed thousands nationwide and sparked avalanches that blocked the climbing route at the mountain. At least 18 climbers were killed on Everest itself, and sherpas deemed the slopes too dangerous for passage.
After a four-month pause, the government decided to reopen the peak for the autumn climbing season.
"The main purpose of my climb is to spread the message that Nepal was safe for climbers and trekkers even after the earthquake," the mountaineer Kuriki said after receiving his permit.
Fifth attempt for Kuriki
Kuriki is set to leave for the world's highest peak on Tuesday, traveling with a helicopter to the area before starting his climb. He is to be supported by a five-member team in the early stages of the expedition, and climb solo from the mountain's Camp 2 to the top. The climber hopes to reach the summit in mid-September.
This will be Kuriki's fifth attempt to scale the 8,850-meter (29,035 feet) peak, as his previous four were unsuccessful. Last time out, in 2012, the climber lost nine fingers to frostbite.
His latest bid comes during the autumn season which is usually avoided by climbers, due to low temperatures and short intervals of sunlight.
Nepal is struggling to revive the tourism industry, which employs almost half a million people in the poor Asian country. The government fears that that the number of visitors might fall by some 40 percent this year.
dj/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)