KATHMANDU (TIP): Ang Kami Sherpa is one of Nepal’s most experienced “ice doctors” — the mountaineers who brave Mount Everest’s treacherous Khumbu icefall to prepare it for the climbing season — but even he is more nervous than usual this time round.
Sherpa is among a group of ice doctors who returned to the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) mountain in August — four months after a huge earthquake that triggered a deadly avalanche at its base camp.
They are readying the route for the autumn season, when even in a normal year only a handful of climbers attempt the summit, most opting for the more favourable conditions of spring.
This year, Japan’s Nobokazu Kuriki is the only climber planning an attempt on the summit, although a six-person support team is expected to accompany him to Camp 2, about 6,400 metres high and usually around two days of trekking beyond base camp.
At 63, Sherpa is more familiar with Everest than most, having kicked off his mountaineering career in 1975 when he assisted Japan’s Junko Tabei in her successful bid to become the first woman to summit the peak.
But this time, the veteran ice doctor says even he is worried after April’s quake, which killed nearly 9,000 people, 18 of them on the world’s highest peak.
“Our job is more difficult this year, the mountain has changed (after the quake),” Sherpa told AFP by phone from Everest base camp, where the ice doctors have already begun work. “There is always a risk up here but we are a little more scared this year.”
Highly-skilled mountaineers like Sherpa are the first men on the peak every season, using ropes and ladders to build a route across plunging crevasses and constantly shifting ice.