Nepal investigates if Chinese woman used helicopter on Everest climb

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Nepal investigates if Chinese woman used helicopter on Everest climb
Nepalese porters walk up a path high above the north-eastern town of Namche Bazar, as they head to pick up goods from a town at an upper elevation, on April 18, 2015. Local porters like these two men make roughly anywhere from 40-60 USD a month for their back-breaking work, often at altitudes above 3,000 mts. AFP PHOTO/Roberto SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
General view of Base Camp on Mount Everest which is 5364 meters (17,598 ft) above sea level, Nepal
FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2011 file photo, the last light of the day sets on Mount Everest as it rises behind Mount Nuptse as seen from Tengboche, in the Himalaya's Khumbu region, Nepal. An avalanche swept the slopes of Mount Everest on Friday, April 18, 2014, along a route used to ascend the world's highest peak, killing at least six Nepalese guides and leaving nine more missing, officials said. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer, File)
In this image provided by mountain guide Adrian Ballinger of Alpenglow Expeditions and taken at sunrise on Saturday, May 18, 2013, climbers make their way to the summit of Mount Everest, in the Khumbu region of the Nepal Himalayas. Nepal celebrated the 60th anniversary of the conquest of Mount Everest on Wednesday, May 29, 2013, by honoring climbers who followed in the footsteps of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. (AP Photo/Alpenglow Expeditions, Adrian Ballinger) MANDATORY CREDIT, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
MOUNT EVEREST, NEPAL, AVALANCHE - APRIL 23, 2014: This is DigitalGlobe imagery (image 4) of the avalanche on Mount Everest near Everest Base Camp that killed sixteen Nepalese guides. The avalanche occurred on 18 April 2014. Imagery was collected on April 23th, 2014. (Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images)
DELHI, INDIA - DECEMBER 01: The Mount Everest (8848m) in between other himalayan mountains seen from an aeroplane on December 01, 2012 in Delhi, Delhi, India (Photo by EyesWideOpen/Getty Images)
Clouds hover above the world's highest peak Mount Everest, as seen from Syangboche, about 125 kilometers (80 miles) northeast of Katmandu, Nepal, Wednesday, May 19, 2010. This 29,035-foot (8,850-meter) peak is one of the major attractions of this Himalayan nation. (AP Photo/ Binod Joshi)
** FILE ** Mount Everest is seen from above Everest Base camp, Nepal, in this May 26, 2003 file photo. Climbers are being told by Nepalese officials that Mount Everest's summit will be put off-limits to the public from all sides during the first 10 days of May, so the Chinese can carry an Olympic torch to the summit without risking a high-altitude confrontation over Tibet's future. (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan, File)
**FILE** The southern face of Mount Everest is seen here in this Aug. 26, 2000, file photo. Sir Edmund Hillary, who along with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first to summit the world's tallest peak in 1953, harshly criticized the dozens of climbers who saw ailing fellow climber David Sharp of Britain earlier this month but continued their attempts to summit the mountain. Sharp died of apparent oxygen deficiency. (AP Photo/John McConnico, File)
Basanti (L), 14, and her friend Jhalijhsa, 14, walk with their empty baskets down to the north-eastern Nepalese town of Namche Bazar (unseen) on a freshly snow-dusted field near Mt. Kondge (R) on April 18, 2015. Basanti and Jhalijsha were heading to the market in Namche to pick up supplies to take back to their village where they go to school on weekdays, after making their early-morning supply run. For their daily, back-breaking effort, they earn an equivalent of around 70 USD. The town of Namche is a usual stop for trekkers and climbers heading into the Khumbu region. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
A bank of clouds moves up the valley of the Dudh Koshi river basin into upper elevation at the base of the Nepalese Mount Thambersku (top L) near Namche Bazar in the early morning of April 18, 2015. Trekkers and climbers heading towards the peaks and glaciers deep in the Khumbu region, including Mount Everest, follow this valley as they head north. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
MOUNT EVEREST, NEPAL, FEBRUARY 13, 2015: A line of trekkers walk through fresh snow beside the Khumbu Glacier, near the base of Mount Everest and Everest Base Camp in the Solu-Khumbu region of Nepal, February 13, 2015. Trekking is the largest sole source of income for many people living in the Solu-Khumbu region, home to the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest (8848m). According to leading researchers, in recent years the landscape and people of the Solu-Khumbu region have come under increasing pressure from raising temperatures and shifting climactic conditions. As well as being home to many of the world's highest mountains, the region holds some of the world's largest and highest glaciers, some of which have begun to show signs of increased and rapid melt. The Khumbu glacier, which lies at the foot of Mount Everest, has in the last decade begun to develop ponds of water on its surface, which scientists say could develop into a much larger lake on the glacierâs surface if warming trends continue. Recent research indicates that annual mean surface temperature in the Himalaya has increased by 1.5 degrees celsius over pre-industrial temperatures. (Photo by Ed Giles/Getty Images).
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By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal said on Tuesday it was investigating whether a Chinese woman, this season's sole climber of Mount Everest from the Nepalese side, used a helicopter to reach a high camp after a deadly avalanche last month washed away part of the route.

Using a helicopter would constitute a serious moral violation of tradition in climbing the world's highest peak. But Wang Jing, 40, who completed the climb last Friday, denied she had used the aircraft to advance up the mountain.

The April 18 avalanche killed 16 Nepali guides, who were fixing ropes and ferrying supplies for their foreign clients to scale the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) peak. Guides then refused to accompany foreign climbers out of respect for their dead colleagues and hundreds had to abandon their expeditions.

Wang completed her climb with five Sherpa guides arranged privately to become the first to go up from the Southeast Ridge route after the deadliest accident in the mountain's history.

Authorities said they were looking into reports that Wang took the helicopter and flew over the route damaged by the avalanche to the site of Camp II at 6,400 meters (20,997 feet).

"We have asked the helicopter company whether they flew Wang to Camp II as reported," Madhusudan Burlakoti, a senior official at the Tourism Ministry, told Reuters.

Nepal normally allows helicopters above Everest base camp located at about 5,400 meters (17,716 feet) to rescue climbers in distress or to drop climbing equipment and supplies.

Climbers must walk on ropes and aluminum ladders fixed on snow, including over the treacherous Khumbu Icefall, known for crevasses and avalanches.

Burlakoti said Wang, who returned from the summit at the weekend, had denied using any helicopter for climbing, but acknowledged having one drop her cook and a porter at Camp II with supplies. He declined to say what action Wang faced if she was found to have flown to Camp II.

Wang could not be reached for comment.

She told The Himalayan Times daily that helicopters had brought logistic and support staff.

"Being a professional mountaineer, I have walked through Khumbu Icefall several times," the paper quoted her as saying. "You can also ask Sherpas how I made it to the summit this time... It is not the time to make any controversy. I have nothing more to say about chopper use."

Expedition operator Russell Brice, who originally included Wang in his team, says she was climbing with another company after he decided to withdraw his members following the avalanche.

Mountain climbing in an important adventure sport for foreign climbers in Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 mountains taller than 8,000 meters (26,246 feet). Permit fees are a key source of income for the desperately poor country.

The route Wang used to the top was pioneered by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay during their historic ascent in 1953 that popularized Nepal as a destination for climbers. More than 4,000 people have climbed Everest so far and about 250 have died during their expedition.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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