Four Sherpa guides are setting off to attempt to climb to the top of Mount Everest in less than a week. Only a handful of climbers have reached the summit during the brutal winter season.
A small team of Sherpas on Monday will begin their attempt to set a new record for the fastest ascent of the world's tallest peak.
The four experienced guides said they aim to climb Mount Everest in less than a week, during the brutal winter reason where temperatures can fall to as low as -40 Celsius (-40 degrees Fahrenheit).
In doing so, they'll be the first ream to attempt to reach the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) summit during winter in more than a quarter of a century.
Most climbers attempt to reach Everest's summit during the April-May spring season when weather conditions are favorable.
"A winter speed climbing expedition has not happened yet and so we are attempting a new record," team leader Tashi Lakpa Sherpa, who has summitted Everest eight times, told reporters.
"The last teams that scaled the peak in winter did it in two months, but we are planning to do it in five days."
He and the others have been training on other mountains in preparation, acclimatizing their bodies to the high altitude.
The 34-year-old will also be only the second winter climber to not use supplemental oxygen — the first was a Nepali mountaineer in December 1987.
He will be joined by three other climbers — Pasang Nurbu Sherpa, Ming Temba Sherpa and Halung Dorchi Sherpa — who each have at least completed two Everest summits.
Spotlight on Nepal's sherpas
The team is due to fly by helicopter to the Everest base camp on Monday, before starting their ascent on Tuesday.
The four plan to reach the summit on Saturday before making a quick descent and returning to Kathmandu, Nepal's capital, on Sunday.
Only a handful of climbers have reached the mountain's peak during the harsh winter season, which involves battling the extreme cold, high winds and piled-up snow and ice.
The feat was first accomplished in 1980 and has not been done since 1993.
By attempting the ascent in winter, climbers put themselves in much higher danger of frostbite, as exposed skin freezes in less than five minutes.
If they succeed, they'll bring more long-overdue recognition to Nepalese climbers, who for years were relegated to support staff for international climbers. In recent years, the Sherpas have set several mountaineering records.
Last year, a record 885 people climbed Everest and 11 people died en route. At least four of the deaths were blamed on overcrowding.
Two other teams are also attempting to make successful winter expeditions to the summit, led by Spanish alpinist Alex Txikon and German climber Jost Kobusch.
mm/stb (AFP, AP)