Climbers return from Everest base camp after Sherpas refuse to rebuild damaged route

Climbers who stayed in villages close to the Everest base camp have started packing their gear and are leaving the mountain because Sherpa guides have refused to rebuild a climbing route destroyed by the earthquake-triggered avalanche, mountaineering officials said Tuesday.

Gyanendra Shrestha, an official at Nepal's Mountaineering Department, said Tuesday that the climbers were moving down from the base camp area. A handful of climbers still wanted to go ahead with their climbs, but without the route fixed over the Khumbu Icefall it was not possible.

Shrestha said some of the climbers had stayed in the mountain villages to help the Sherpas and their families who had their homes damaged by the April 25 earthquake.

The government has not formally canceled the climbing season and climbing permits are valid until the end of May, but the Sherpas have said they would not rebuild the climbing route because of safety and time reasons.

It would be the second consecutive year that the climbing season has been called off because of deaths on the world's highest peak. The season was canceled last year after an avalanche killed 16 Sherpa guides.

Mountaineering teams have until the end of this month to climb the peak, but without the route being fixed it will not be possible for them to attempt the climb. The Sherpas play a crucial role by bringing the ladders, ropes and equipment needed to clear the trail, but they feel the area is too dangerous and there is not enough time left in the season before it begins to get warmer, and melting ice and monsoon rains bring bad conditions.

Climbers and Sherpas attempting to reach the summit from the north face of the mountain in Tibet have already packed their gear and left after Chinese authorities closed all climbing for the spring season.

The April 25 earthquake has already killed more than 7,500 people in Nepal, flattened mountain villages and destroyed buildings and archaeological sites in Kathmandu.