KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal celebrated Everest Day on Sunday by honoring nine Sherpa guides who fixed ropes and dug the route to the summit so hundreds of climbers could scale the world's highest mountain this month, following two years of disasters.
Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli praised the men at the ceremony in Kathmandu, where they were presented with bouquets and given checks for 50,000 rupees ($460).
"The secret behind the more than 400 climbers ascending Mount Everest is the successful rope fixing and successful route fixing," Oli said. "There was no confusion because the route fixing and the rope fixing made it possible for climbers to reach the summit."
Everest Day honors the first successful climb in 1953 by Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay. Since then, thousands of climbers have scaled the peak and some 280 people have died on Everest's unpredictable slopes, including at least four this month.
The nine Sherpas who were honored Sunday were the first to reach the summit this season, reaching the peak on May 11. Since they fixed the ropes and dug the route, more than 400 people have climbed the mountain.
The Sherpas first fixed aluminum ladders and tied ropes over the dreaded Khumbu Icefall, just above the base camp. They then fixed ropes for climbers to hold onto for much of the route.
The busy climbing season follows two years of disasters on the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) -high mountain. Last year's season was scrapped after 19 climbers were killed and 61 injured by an avalanche at the base camp triggered by a massive earthquake. In 2014, an avalanche at the Khumbu Icefall killed 16 Sherpa guides.
Prime Minister Oli offered bouquets Sunday at the statues of Hillary and Tenzing in Kathmandu. People attending the function observed a minute of silence in memory of those killed on Everest this season.
Two Indians, an Australian and a Dutchman died on the mountain this month, while another Indian is missing and believed to have died near the summit.