Team Of Sherpas First To Scale Everest In 2 Years

The successful ascent is the first since a deadly earthquake last year and an avalanche the year before forced climbers to abandon their attempts.

12/05/2016 3:07 PM AEST | Updated 12/05/2016 3:07 PM AEST
Associated Press
Yellow and orange tents at Everest Base Camp are pitched on the edges of the Khumbu Icefall in Nepal.

For the first time in two years, humans stood on the top of the world.

A team of nine Sherpas successfully scaled Mount Everest’s peak on Wednesday -- the first climbers to do so since a deadly earthquake in 2015 and a fatal avalanche the year before made attempts to the summit impossible.

The team, led by Sherra Gyalgen Sherpa, was hired by expeditions to carry equipment and secure ropes on the mountain. More than 280 foreign climbers and their guides were reportedly waiting to attempt the final ascent.

Nepal Mountaineering Association President Ang Tshering Sherpa told the BBC that the Sherpas encountered many challenges in their climb to the top.

“Although they were planning to reach [the summit] much earlier in the day, difficult climbing conditions near the Hillary Step -- a major climbing hurdle around 70 meters below the peak -- delayed the Sherpas' plans,” he said. “Because of heavy snow and ice, it took more than four hours for them to cross the Hillary Step.”

Sherra Gyalgen Sherpa was the first person to reach the summit.

Associated Press
A Sherpa walks with a massive load toward Everest Base camp in Nepal.
Associated Press
A Sherpa at Everest Base Camp fetches the ladders for the icefall doctors who will be fixing the route for the climbers attempting the ascent this year.

It’s been more than two years since a team has reached Everest's peak. In 2014, an avalanche in the treacherous Khumbu Icefall killed 16 sherpas, prompting the end of the climbing season. 

Last year, at least 18 climbers died after a powerful earthquake triggered an avalanche on the mountain. More than 60 people were also injured. Climbing season was cancelled for the second year in a row.

Two climbers scale the treacherous Khumbu Icefall in May 1996. 

Sherpas, who have long demanded improved safety standards and better compensation, said the conditions on Everest were only getting more treacherous -- a result of overcrowding and climate change.

To address some of these safety concerns, authorities have, for the first time ever, allowed helicopters to transport some climbing gear up part of the mountain, the BBC reported. Now Sherpas can avoid carrying some equipment through the Khumbu Icefall, which has become even more dangerous since last year's earthquake. 

Sherpas reportedly used to make 20 or more journeys a season through the Khumbu Icefall in order to transport oxygen, tents, food and other necessities. In contrast, a paying climber would cross the area as few as four times.

It's unclear if the helicopter help was a one-time occurrence or if it will become standard practice, National Geographic reported. 

“We have been pushing for permission to do this for years,” mountain guide Garrett Madison said. “I’m glad the Nepal ministry finally got on board with the sensible decision.”

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