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Everest climbing season heats up amid race for new records

By Sangam Prasain

Kathmandu, May 9 (EFE).- These days, the slopes of Mt Everest are a glimpse of contrasting colors dotting the dramatic white landscapes at more than 5,000 meters high.

Climbers, waiting to scale the highest peak and aspiring to set new records and spread messages of hope, have pitched colorful tents on the pristine white carpet that leads to Everest.

After days of acclimatization, while waiting for ideal weather conditions, expeditions to the summit are expected to kick off this week, Mingma Sherpa, the director-general of the Seven Summit Treks, told EFE.

Although Kami Rita Sherpa, Nepal’s alpinist par excellence, has already made history by climbing the world’s tallest peak for a record 26th time over the weekend, breaking his record.

The 52-year-old is expected to make another bid for the summit during the same season to rewrite his count after he inaugurated what could turn out to be a series of Everest climbing records over the next few weeks.

Rita’s compatriot Lhakpa Sherpa aims to break her record of becoming the woman with the most Everest ascents, having already climbed the peak nine times since 2000, when she was 26.

Hundreds of other climbers have gathered at the mountain base, nervous and excited to complete unfinished projects.

Veteran French climber Marc Batard, 70, aims to become the oldest man to climb the peak without supplementary oxygen.

He also hopes to discover an alternative route that does not pass through the dangerous Khumbu icefall, which has witnessed repeated accidents, Batard told EFE.

Australia’s Ken Hutt is planning to descend in an entirely different way from Everest, as he intends to become the oldest person to come down from the peak by paragliding.

“All to help raise funds to eradicate polio once and for all,” Hutt’s Facebook page says about the mission objective.

Before him, only Frenchman Jean-Marc Boivin (1988), and the duo of Sanobabu Sunuwar and Lakpa Tshiri Sherpa (2011), have achieved this feat.

The spring climbing season will also see climbers spreading messages of hope — from minority rights to peace in Ukraine.

Nepal’s Sagar Bishwakarma Sunar, who is just 1.13 meters tall and suffers from several deformities that make it difficult for him to walk, aims to become the shortest man to ascend Everest, thus advocating equal rights and freedoms for differently-abled persons.

Similarly, United-States based climber Philip Henderson will lead an all-black expedition to the peak, promoting racial equality.

“We believe our project will encourage people of color to not just dream big, but simply get outside,” Henderson told journalists in Kathmandu before setting off for the expedition.

Ukrainian climber Antonina Samiolova expects to peak the summit with her national flag, calling for peace in the war-torn country.

Despite the multiple record bids this year, Nepal witnessed a drop in climbing permits.

Only for Everest – for which 316 permits have been issued compared to the 408 approved last spring – the drop amounts to 25 percent, Dambar Parajuli, president of the Expedition Operators Association of Nepal, told EFE.

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