KATHMANDU - A group of French climbers on Friday said they had discovered a new route to the peak of the world's tallest mountain, Mount Everest, also known as Mt. Qomolangma, from the Nepali side, which could help climbers avoid the treacherous Khumbu Icefall.
"The new route that we discovered begins at the Gorakshep area (5,164m) on the ridge of Mt. Nuptse (7,861m), a neighbouring peak of Mt. Qomolangma (8848.86m), and it will help climbers avoid the Khumbu Icefall while climbing Mt. Qomolangma," Marc Batard, a French climber who led a seven-member team, told Xinhua.
The Khumbu Icefall, which lies between the base camp and camp 1 Mount Everest, is covered with ice blocks and considered very dangerous because of a frequent outbreak of avalanches, which have killed several mountaineers in recent years.
According to Batard, for climbers to use the newly discovered route, they need to make Gorakshep (5,164m) as the base camp and have to move upward through the ridge of Mt. Nuptse and reach the height of 6,200m, an elevation which has not been named yet. The elevation lies between camp I and camp II on the traditional climbing route to Mount Everest, known as Mt. Sagarmatha in Nepal.
Climber then have to descend around 400 meters to Camp I from the 6,200-meter-high elevation on the new climbing route, said Batard.
"After arriving at Camp I from the new route, the climber can move towards the peak of Mt. Qomolangma through the usual route," he said. "Thus, the newly discovered route will help the climbers avoid Khumbu Icefall."
While other routes to Mount Everest that straddles Nepal and China have been identified, there is only one route officially recognised in Nepal which passes through the Khumbu Icefall, and other routes have rarely been used as they are either impractical or commercially less viable, according to Nepali officials.
"The route that we discovered can be a viable alternative," said Batard, a two-time summiteer of Mount Everest without oxygen in 1988 and 1990.
Batard took a view of the Qomolangma region by helicopter in April and he spotted the potential new route. His team took a trip to the Qomolangma region in November and climbed up to 700 meters above Gorakshep by means of temporary hooks and ropes.
The French climbers started climbing from Gorakshep on Nov. 15 and reached an altitude of around 5,800 meters by temporary rock pitons and ropes, and it took them several days till Nov. 21 to descend.
"As we didn't have permits to climb high mountains above 5,800 meters, we stopped there and returned," Batard said, adding that even though his team had identified the new route, it cannot be used for usual climbing purposes for long without installing permanent rock pitons.
Bhisma Raj Bhattarai, a section officer with the mountaineering section of Nepal's Department of Tourism, said that even though the government has recognised only one route so far, it does not ban climbing Mount Everest through other alternative routes.
Batard, 70, plans to climb Mount Everest for a third time in the spring season next year by using the route discovered by his team.
"I have turned 70 years old. On this occasion, I want to reach the top of the world once again without supplemental oxygen and I have plan to climb Mt. Qomolangma once again in the upcoming spring," he said.