Chinese woman first to climb Everest after deadly Nepal avalanche

KATHMANDU (REUTERS) - A Chinese woman climbed Mount Everest on Friday, a government official said, the first person to go up from the Nepali side since an April avalanche killed 16 guides and forced hundreds of foreigners to abandon attempts on the world's highest mountain.

The deadliest accident in the history of Mount Everest triggered a dispute between Sherpa guides who wanted a climbing ban in honour of their colleagues for this season ending this month and the government that refused to close the mountain.

Tourism Ministry official Dipendra Poudel said 40-year-old Wang Jing reached the 8,850 metres summit on Friday afternoon in good weather. She climbed with five Sherpa guides along the Southeast Ridge route pioneered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

Tourism including mountain climbing contributes four per cent to Nepal's GDP.

More than 4,000 people have climbed Mount Everest since it was first scaled in 1953 while more than 250 have died on the slopes of the mountain which can also be climbed from China.

The Nepali guides were ferrying supplies for foreign clients when the avalanche struck on April 18 in Khumbu Icefall on a treacherous stretch of a planned route.

The disaster highlighted the tremendous risks sherpas take to guide their foreign clients to the top.

Authorities were accused of doing little for the sherpas while it collected considerable sums from foreign climbers. Sherpas were unhappy with the government that paid US$400 (S$500) to the families to meet funeral costs.

The row forced 334 foreign climbers to call off bids and the government agreed to allow them to climb on the same permit if they returned within five years.

Each climber pays US$10,000 for the permit which is a key source of revenue for the cash strapped government.

Wang took a helicopter from the base camp to Camp II to avoid the hazardous section of the route damaged by the avalanche which was yet to be fixed with ropes and ladders.

"Wang is the first climber to top Mount Everest this season. This is a historic ascent and a positive thing for Nepal's mountain tourism," Poudel told Reuters. "This is the proof that Mount Everest was not closed after the avalanche and it will never be closed," he said.

Poudel said Wang had descended to Camp IV at 7,900 metres from the summit and was expected to climb down to lower camps at the weekend.

It was not immediately clear if she would take a helicopter back to the base camp across the portion of the route damaged by the avalanche.

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