KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Mount Everest remains open to climbers, a senior official at Nepal's tourism department said on Monday, despite avalanches after last month's devastating earthquake destroying much of the established route to the summit of the world's highest peak.
Nepal's worst earthquake in decades has killed more than 7,200 people, including at least 18 climbers on Everest who were hit by a massive avalanche that wiped out part of the base camp.
But Nepal, which makes thousands of dollars from climbers, has hesitated over whether or not to officially close the mountain, and on Monday was still leaving the decision to press ahead to individual climbers.
Climbers pay US$11,000 (S$14,632) each to climb Everest, and 357 were registered for this climbing season. "The government will not officially announce the closure because we have given the permit to climbers," Mr Tulsi Prasad Gautam of Nepal's tourism department told Reuters. "The route is still damaged and the climbers at base camp don't think the route will be fixed anytime soon. It's up to the climbers and the organizers who are at base camp to take a decision: we are not asking them to do one thing or another."
Mr Gautam, who had last Thursday said a team could repair the route through the treacherous Khumbu icefalls in a week, said on Monday that small tremors were still being felt on Everest.
Last year, after 16 sherpas were killed in an avalanche, other sherpas refused to climb out of respect to their colleagues and caused an expedition boycott. But the mountain was not closed, and permits were extended.