Nepal's government strove Wednesday to save the Everest climbing season from an unprecedented walkout by sherpa guides as another major mountaineering company abandoned its expedition following a deadly avalanche last week.
New Zealand-based Adventure Consultants lost three people in Friday's avalanche, which struck a party of sherpas preparing routes for commercial climbers up the world's highest peak and killed 16.
The company said in a statement that "after much discussion and consideration of all aspects, the tough decision has been made to cancel the 2014 expedition this season."
U.S.-based Alpine Ascents International and the Discovery Channel, which intended to broadcast the first winged jumpsuit flight off the summit, have also scrapped their plans on the 8,848-meter (29,029-foot) peak.
Guides and Western mountaineers told AFP Tuesday that the sherpas had held a meeting in the afternoon after an emotional remembrance ceremony at which they had agreed not to climb the peak this season to honor their colleagues.
Nepalese mountaineering officials, eager to avoid a shutdown that could lead to messy compensation claims and a huge loss of revenue for the impoverished country, denied any such move on Wednesday.
The Nepal Mountaineering Association, a national body representing tourism promoters, released a statement saying "we have not received any confirmation regarding the abandon(ment) of the expeditions on Everest."
A government delegation is set to fly to Everest base camp on Thursday to negotiate with the sherpas following talks with leading expedition organizers in Kathmandu.
The situation at base camp, described as tense by climbers there amid fears this year's season could be wrecked, remains fluid and unpredictable with accounts filtering out from climbers and guides.
The location is more than a week's hike from the nearest airport.
Local guide Pasang Sherpa, part of the International Mountain Guides expedition at base camp, insisted that sherpas wanted to sit out this season.
"We don't know what is happening in Kathmandu, but ... we don't want to go up the mountain this year," he said.