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Nepal investigates if Chinese woman used helicopter on Everest climb



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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joolywest May 29 2014 at 3:35 PM

Most if not all foreigners use the Sherpas to do all of the work when climbing Everest and in my book they all have an asterisk next to their names. This Chinese woman just to it to the extreme by taking a chopper to an upper camp. Do it like Hillary, no oxygen, laying your own ropes and setting up your own tent and you can say you conquered the mountain.

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5 replies
fenwaypark9 May 29 2014 at 4:20 PM

I'm 92, I think even I could climb Everest with a Helicopter. Reminds me of when a woman used the subway to complete the Boston Marathon years ago. She got caught too and the BAA changed how they monitor runners.

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7 replies
Sparky5229 May 29 2014 at 3:30 PM

Who cares .

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2 replies
madcap.1 Sparky5229 May 29 2014 at 4:16 PM

if you dont care , why did you take the time to comment.
nothing better to do ?

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3 replies
fenwaypark9 Sparky5229 May 29 2014 at 4:17 PM

The people who honestly climbed.

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1 reply
espoclan1 fenwaypark9 May 30 2014 at 6:16 AM

I doubt' that the people that "honestly" climbed really care. My guess is that they cherish their experience and wouldn't trade it for the world. Even if someone managed to get up on a bus, it wouldn't change the experience for those that endured the climb.

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David S. May 29 2014 at 3:17 PM

So.....they can't ask the Sherpas? I wonder what made them think she used a helicopter to cheat. Would they ask a man the same question....

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8 replies
wtrfrd May 29 2014 at 6:02 PM

4,000 have climbed Everest and 250 have died. That means 6% have died. 3 deaths for every fifty climbers. Seems a bit high... no pun intended.

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1 reply
soberlyf wtrfrd May 30 2014 at 4:07 AM

How ironic, I was about to post the exact same thing verbatim, percentage and all. and it's not actually high, most think the number lost is higher and simply not reported or lives that were lost before accurate records were kept. Also, some were very likely undocumented because it's very costly to get permits, you have to figure there are adrenaline junkies who didn't have the $40,000 and tried their luck illegally. Plus the higher the number, the more climbers get scared off and Nepal needs the money badly.

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theomegaman72 May 29 2014 at 3:56 PM

This sounds silmilar to the woman who swam from Cuba to Florida under highly questionable circumstances. The onus should be on the person who says they completed the task to prove it.

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2 replies
jejozi theomegaman72 May 29 2014 at 4:53 PM

Dontchya love spreading rumors?

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Hansel theomegaman72 May 29 2014 at 5:23 PM

Diana Nyad was just fine without your help, thank you.

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1 reply
theomegaman72 Hansel May 29 2014 at 8:15 PM

not according to the swimming community, they didn't buy it

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ngcolby May 29 2014 at 7:06 PM

She showed little respect for the Sherpa's picket line (imaginary). I applaud their struggle to win more benefits and money for their efforts in keeping this resort functioning.No more climbs until the Sherpa's have won their battle!

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SCUL8RSB May 29 2014 at 5:06 PM

Bummer for her lying.

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dwtomczyk May 29 2014 at 5:17 PM

did she have the helecopter on speed dial?

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belldn3 May 29 2014 at 6:05 PM

She got to the top bottom line. Does it really matter how you do it, just do it, lol.

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