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Nepal opens 104 new peaks to climbers

Nepal has opened 104 new, unconquered peaks to mountaineers, in an attempt to boost tourism after a deadly avalanche effectively ended this year's lucrative Mount Everest climbing season.

KATHMANDU: Nepal has opened 104 new, unconquered peaks to mountaineers, in an attempt to boost tourism after a deadly avalanche effectively ended this year's lucrative Mount Everest climbing season, the government said on Thursday.

Climbers can now scale a total of 414 peaks in the Himalayan nation, including two named after Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first men to successfully summit the world's tallest mountain in 1953, the tourism ministry said.

The newly opened peaks have not been tackled before, officials said, meaning climbers have the chance to be the first to summit them.

"The government felt that we should open new areas to attract more climbers and promote tourism," senior tourism ministry official Madhusudan Burlakoti said in a statement.

The government has also waived climbing fees -- currently $100 for an individual mountaineer -- for peaks under 5,800 metres (19,000 feet), Burlakoti told AFP.

All of the unconquered peaks were open for business immediately except for Yalung Khang West, which is awaiting approval from the Bern-based International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation, because it is above 8,000-metres.

The new peaks include the 7,681-metre Hillary Peak and the 7,916-metre Tenzing Peak.

Mountaineering officials welcomed the announcement, saying it would revive Nepal as a climbing destination, after the April 18 avalanche saw the effective closure of the climbing season, a key revenue earner for the impoverished country.

"This will help improve Nepal's image in the mountaineering community, which has suffered after the Everest avalanche," Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association told AFP.

Tourism ministry official Burlakoti said the government was keen to open more of its over 1,300 Himalayan peaks in future, depending on demand from climbers.

"Some peaks have cultural and religious significance -- we have to keep that in mind before deciding which ones to open for climbers," he said.

The summer climbing season for the Himalayas usually lasts from April to May and the autumn season from late September to November.

Hundreds of climbers last month abandoned plans to ascend Everest from the Nepalese side -- the easiest and most popular route -- after 16 local sherpa guides were killed in the deadliest disaster on the 8,850-metre peak.

The accident sparked a labour dispute between sherpas and the government and led to a boycott by most guides that left foreign expeditions with no choice but to quit the peak.

The government promised foreigners who left the mountain that their climbing permits, usually costing at least $11,000 apiece, would be extended for five years in a bid to encourage them back next season.

Two foreign climbers, thought to be the first mountaineers back on the peak since the shutdown, are currently attempting to scale Everest and neighbouring Lhotse peak. The Everest season lasts until May 25.

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