Kathmandu: Nepal said Friday it will allow hundreds of mountaineers forced to abandon Everest expeditions last year to use their $10,000 climbing permits until 2019, ending months of uncertainty.
Hundreds of climbers had to abandon their attempts last year due to an unprecedented shutdown after 16 Nepalese guides died in an avalanche, the worst accident ever to strike the world`s highest peak.
The Himalayan nation`s government, which earned $3.6 million from Everest permits issued to 334 climbers last year, has decided to allow those mountaineers to return to the peak at any time until 2019.
"The cabinet has decided to extend the permits of all climbers who were unable to climb last year -- they can come back with any company they want over the next five years," said tourism ministry spokesman, Mohan Krishna Sapkota.
The delay in deciding on permit extensions has already seen a handful of foreign climbing companies cancel their expeditions this year.
High Adventure Expeditions, a US company, and Canada`s Peak Freaks have both called off their 2015 Everest climbs, accusing the government of mismanaging the situation.
Mountaineering is a huge revenue earner for the impoverished country, home to eight of the world`s 14 peaks over 8,000 metres.
The brief climbing season on the the 8,848-metre (29,028 feet) peak lasts from April to late May, when weather conditions are deemed ideal for scaling peaks in the Himalayas.
But Sapkota said it was not too late for climbers to plan their expeditions.
Mountaineers will have to pay the government an additional $1,000 to make up for the shortfall between last year`s and this year`s fees, currently set at $11,000 per climber, Sapkota told AFP.
Nepal has also decided to station doctors on Mount Everest, upgrade weather forecasting systems and change the traditional route taken by climbers to ascend the peak, in a bid to boost safety and allay concerns.