With the onset of spring season, over 346 mountaineers are attempting to climb the world's highest peak Qomolangma on May.
According to Nepal's Tourism Department, the official government body which issues climbing permits for the Qomolangma expedition, altogether 38 Nepali and foreign teams have taken the permits for expedition this year.
Dinesh Bhattarai, director general of the Tourism Department told Xinhua, "This year, 346 mountaineers from 38 teams have received permits for Qomolangma. Among them, four are Nepali teams with 20 members while the remaining are foreigners from different countries."
The number is likely to increase within next week as many climbers have been approaching the department for the permits, leading to a high possibility of tourism revival of the quake-shattered country.
The majority of climbers have already reached the Qomolangma base camp, a seven-day trek from the nearest airport, for acclimatization where they will spend at least one and a half months to reduce the risk of altitude sickness.
An expedition to the world's highest peak usually takes 75 to 90 days, while the climbing window is short, depending on favorable weather, and generally falls after mid-May.
Besides expedition, this is also the prime time when trekkers gather in the base camp and surrounding locations like Kalapatthar and Gokyo Lake. Moreover, the Qomolangma base camp also works as the base camp for neighboring peaks like Lhotse and Nuptse.
Thus, Qomolangma, known as Sagarmatha in Nepali, is likely to see a congestion this season as over 2,000 trekkers, porters, guides and mountain enthusiasts are gathering in the base camp. But the government claims that it should not be termed as a traffic jam.
"Everest (Qomolangma) is a lifetime experience for many so they gather and attempt (to climb it) in this spring season. The expedition period can go up to 90 days while not all climbers reach the top of the world on the same day, so it does not arouse the question of traffic jam as often portrayed," an official at the Department of Tourism told Xinhua.
In 2017, the department had issued climbing permits to 43 groups among which 445 climbers succeeded in making atop the 8,848-meter peak.
Qomolangma has not only been an identity of this least developed country but also a major source of revenue. According to the Nepali regulation, every foreigner needs to pay 11,000 U.S. dollars as royalty while a Nepali climber has to pay NRs 75,000 (710 U.S. dollars) to scale the mountain. Every climber has to pay separately for a Liaison officer appointed by the government.
With the beginning of Qomolangma season every year, the issues of competitions, records and safety also arise. The Nepali government says its sole priority is on safety of the climbers and it discourages making records.
"Safety is the first concern for which we try to make the expedition agency and climbers responsible. We have always stressed on the availability of enough oxygen bottles and life saving drugs before the expedition team leaves for Lukla, the gateway to Everest," said Bhattarai.
The expeditions are carried by both foreign and Nepali agencies, usually led by those who have already stood atop the mountain several times, often with some world records.
This year, a majority of climbers are from the United States, followed by India and China. Over 54 Chinese climbers including a double amputee are trying their luck this spring.
Nepal's high hopes on Qomolangma revived since 2016 after the expedition was halted for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015 due to a massive avalanche killing 16 Sherpa guides and a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed 19 people.
The spring season is not all about Mount Qomolangma but it is also the favorable season for several other mountains. Altogether 698 climbers will attempt to climb 22 mountains of the Himalayan country this spring, including Ambadablam, Lhoste, Kanchanjunga, Nuptse, Manaslu, Dhawalagiri and Annapurna among others.