KATHMANDU (AFP) - A Japanese climber with only one finger due to frostbite, who last month failed to reach the top of Mount Everest, will make his final push for the summit late on Wednesday (Oct 7), organisers said.
Mr Nobukazu Kuriki, who lost nine fingers on the mountain in 2012, is the only climber trying to scale the world's highest peak this year after an earthquake-triggered avalanche killed 18 people at base camp.
The April disaster saw hundreds of climbers abandon their bids to ascend the 8,848m mountain, marking a second spring season with virtually no one reaching the summit.
An avalanche in 2014 that killed 16 Nepali guides also sparked a shutdown that year.
"He has reached the last camp and will start his climb to the summit tonight," said Mr Tikaram Gurung, managing director of Bochi-Bochi Trek, which is handling Mr Kuriki's expedition.
He will ascend overnight into the "death zone" - located above 8,000m, notorious for its difficult terrain and thin air - and summit around dawn on Thursday, Mr Gurung told AFP.
Mountaineers usually begin their summit attempts late at night, which allows them to descend in daylight, lowering the risk of them falling to their deaths due to exhaustion.
Mr Kuriki, who plans to summit alone without the aid of bottled oxygen, is making his fifth attempt to climb Everest, at a time when the risks are higher than usual because of regular aftershocks that increase the chance of avalanches.
Mountaineering experts say climbing in autumn is more dangerous than spring due to high winds and lower temperatures.
The 33-year-old was forced to abandon his bid last month because deep snow made it difficult for him to climb quickly during the final stretch.
Mountaineering is a major revenue-earner for impoverished Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 peaks over 8,000m.
But the April 25 earthquake which killed nearly 8,900 people raised fears for the immediate future of the tourism industry.