Using a helicopter would constitute a serious moral violation of
tradition in climbing the world's highest peak. But Wang Jing, 40,
who completed the climb last Friday, denied she had used the
aircraft to advance up the mountain.
The April 18 avalanche killed 16 Nepali guides, who were fixing
ropes and ferrying supplies for their foreign clients to scale the
8,850-metre (29,035-foot) peak. Guides then refused to accompany
foreign climbers out of respect for their dead colleagues and
hundreds had to abandon their expeditions.
Wang completed her climb with five Sherpa guides arranged privately
to become the first to go up from the Southeast Ridge route after
the deadliest accident in the mountain's history.
Authorities said they were looking into reports that Wang took the
helicopter and flew over the route damaged by the avalanche to the
site of Camp II at 6,400 meters (20,997 feet).
"We have asked the helicopter company whether they flew Wang to Camp
II as reported," Madhusudan Burlakoti, a senior official at the
Tourism Ministry, told Reuters.
Nepal normally allows helicopters above Everest base camp located at
about 5,400 meters (17,716 feet) to rescue climbers in distress or
to drop climbing equipment and supplies.
Climbers must walk on ropes and aluminum ladders fixed on snow,
including over the treacherous Khumbu Icefall, known for crevasses
Burlakoti said Wang, who returned from the summit at the weekend,
had denied using any helicopter for climbing, but acknowledged
having one drop her cook and a porter at Camp II with supplies. He
declined to say what action Wang faced if she was found to have
flown to Camp II.
[to top of second column]
Wang could not be reached for comment.
She told The Himalayan Times daily that helicopters had brought
logistic and support staff.
"Being a professional mountaineer, I have walked through Khumbu
Icefall several times," the paper quoted her as saying. "You can
also ask Sherpas how I made it to the summit this time... It is not
the time to make any controversy. I have nothing more to say about
Expedition operator Russell Brice, who originally included Wang in
his team, says she was climbing with another company after he
decided to withdraw his members following the avalanche.
Mountain climbing in an important adventure sport for foreign
climbers in Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 mountains taller
than 8,000 meters (26,246 feet). Permit fees are a key source of
income for the desperately poor country.
The route Wang used to the top was pioneered by New Zealander Sir
Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay during their historic
ascent in 1953 that popularized Nepal as a destination for climbers.
More than 4,000 people have climbed Everest so far and about 250
have died during their expedition.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Ron Popeski)
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