Will Cancellations End Everest Climbing Season?

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British mountaineer Phil Crampton, owner of climbing company Altitude Junkies, told AFP that climbing company owners had met government officials in Kathmandu and "asked for immediate action."

Before Tuesday's call to abandon the season, the guides had issued a string of demands to the government, including higher compensation for the dead and injured, a rise in insurance payments and a welfare fund.

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The government has offered to set up a relief fund for injured guides using up to five percent of fees paid by climbers, while increasing life insurance payments by 50 percent.

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The sherpas want 30 percent of climbers' fees to be earmarked for the fund and life insurance payments, set at $10,000, to be doubled.

The government, expected to earn at least $3 million this year from Everest climbing fees alone, has issued permits to 734 people, including 400 guides, for 32 expeditions this season.

Calming tempers

Hundreds of anxious climbers remain at base camp, uncertain whether to leave or stay following the sherpas' announcement, with tensions running high.

New Zealand mountaineer Russell Brice, owner of top expedition company Himex, said he hoped the government delegation's visit on Thursday would persuade sherpas to start climbing again.

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"I hope the visit will calm tempers and the sherpas will understand the reasons for continuing the season," Brice told AFP in Kathmandu.

"They can continue their negotiations once the climbing season ends."

Relations between local guides and Western mountaineers hit a low last year when a brawl broke out between three European climbers and a group of sherpas.

The New Zealand firm that pulled out of Everest on Wednesday was also a victim of what was previously the worst disaster on the mountain in 1996, which was immortalised in the best-selling book "Into Thin Air."

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Adventure Consultants lost four people in that tragedy, which saw a storm envelop climbers at high altitude, killing eight in total.

More than 300 people, most of them local guides, have died on the peak since the first ascent by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

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