By Ramesh Lamsal, Kathmandu, Apr. 8: So far, 176 aspiring mountaineers have obtained permits for Sagarmatha (Mt Everest) expedition this spring and the number is expected to climb, according to the Department of Tourism.
While most of them are bound to climb the highest mountain in the world via conventional route starting from Khumbu Icefall, a four-member team including a renowned French mountaineer and a Sherpa are eyeing to tread a new and allegedly 'safer' route to the top of the 8,848.86 metres-mountain.
Seventy-year-old Marc Batard, his two sons and Lakpa Nuru Sherpa are all set to climb Sagarmatha via a new route they claim to be safer than the existing one.
The team identified the new route last year which is rocky, unlike the icy and treacherous Khumbu Icefall. They are testing the feasibility and plausibility of the newly discovered route this year.
The existing route- South-East ridge- starts from Everest Base Camp at 5,364 metres. The new route, according to Marc, would begin from Gorakhshep, the last human settlement in Khumbu region at 5,164 metres.
The team will climb upward the new rocky route that lies eastward from the existing path and crosses the foothill of adjoining Mt Nuptse (7,864 meters). The teams then have to climb down some 300 metres to reach Camp I of Sagarmatha located at 6,065 metres.
The French climber and Sherpa team last year identified a new alternative path from Gorakhshep to an altitude up to 5,500 metres. They too conducted an aerial survey of the route.
The newly explored route will bypass the gorge, glacier streams, ever-shifting ice sheet in Khumbu Icefall and deep crevasses thereby averting chances of accidents along the route.
To date, 40 climbers and support members Sherpa have died in Khumbu Icefall area alone since the maiden successful summit of Sagarmatha in 1953 by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary.
In a programme organized on Thursday, Nuru Sherpa said that he was supporting the French team to address the question- isn't there a different, newer and safer route to the summit of Sagarmatha?
Their mission is to validate the safety of the newly discovered route so that more and more future mountaineers choose the new route and help prevent fatalities from occurring in the riskier Khumbu Icefall section.
The Technical Panel under the government-formed Tourism Revival Steering Committee to revitalize the tourism sector in the country sees the attempt of this team as an opportunity to introduce a new and safer route to Sagarmatha.
Panel's coordinator Rajaram Giri is hopeful that the newly discovered route to Sagarmatha would help revive COVID-19 affected tourism sector.
According to him, the new route gives new hope and confidence to aspiring mountaineers. "Once validated, the government should give recognition to the route and permit should be issued for commercial expeditions," he viewed.
Marc, who had set a record by climbing Sagarmatha in 22 hours 29 minutes in 1988, aspires to become the oldest person to climb Sagarmatha without supplement oxygen this year. Sherpa has already climbed Sagarmatha for 14 times to date.
The Sherpa and Nepal-lover French mountaineer duo are collaborating to prove that the new way to Sagarmatha is safer as coming back home safe are equally important as reaching the top of the mountain.