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Royal expedition gets first Everest climbing permit after year-long closure

Kathmandu, Mar 26 (efe-epa).- The royal expedition led by a prince of Bahrain on Friday received the first official permit to climb Mt Everest since the closure of the world’s highest summit – measuring 8,848.86 meters – last year due to the pandemic.

The 16-member team led by Prince Mohamed Hamad Mohamed al-Khalifa on Friday received the climbing permit after competing the requirement of observing seven-day quarantine, tourism department director Mira Acharya told EFE.

The expedition had to comply with the mandatory isolation period even as Nepali authorities on Thursday withdrew the requirement.

The team is expected to head to the Everest base camp from Kathmandu next week.

The team lead by al-Khalifa had arrived in Nepal on Mar. 15 amid controversy, as they had brought an consignment of 2,000 Covid-19 vaccines meant for donation, supposedly without the permission of Nepali authorities.

Moreover, at first it was claimed that the vaccines were those of AstraZeneca, but after authorities seized the consignment, it was found that it included 2,000 doses of CoronaVac, developed by Chinese lab Sinovac and not approved in Nepal.

On Friday the prince refused to comment on the vaccine controversy and simply said he was happy to be at the verge of fulfilling his dream of climbing the world’s highest mountain.

“Now, we are ready to climb Everest. (…) Climbing Everest and raising the Bahrain flag on the highest point of the earth is an honor to the country,” al-Khalifa, told EFE.

However, climber acknowledged that the ascent would be “extremely difficult” as people had also died in the attempt in the past, with as many as 10 mountaineers succumbing in the quest in 2019.

The expedition also includes 42 Sherpa porters.

“Sherpas are really strong. We cannot imagine climbing without them,” said the prince.

This is al-Khalifa’s second Nepal visit in recent months, after in October his expedition climbed Mt Manaslu, the world’s eighth highest peak.

The ascent, which took place two days before the official opening of the country for foreign mountaineers, came as an important economic boost for Nepal after the devastating impact of the pandemic, with the expedition paying around $1.5 million for a month-long program. EFE-EPA

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