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KATHMANDU, Nepal – Despite a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that triggered a landslide that killed 19 people at Everest base camp, government and trekking officials in Nepal said Thursday that expeditions to summit Mt. Everest may resume if climbers decide to go ahead.
"The route damaged by the avalanche and the ropes can be fixed by next week," Tulsi Prasad Gautam, chief of Nepal's Tourism Department said, adding there was still time left to attempt to scale the peak. Bad weather normally ends the Everest summit season in mid-to-end May.
The climbers and Sherpas who were attempting to 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.
But in Nepal, Gautam said, "the time for the expedition teams can be extended to June if necessary. Most of the teams are still in the region and many are still undecided if they are going to abandon."
Several Sherpa guides are willing to go back to work if the expeditions resume.
Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, the umbrella body of mountaineering agencies and climbers in Nepal, said some expeditions are still debating what to do.
It was not clear how many teams had decided to quit or stay back on the mountain. Tshering was more pessimistic than the tourism official about their prospects.
"It does look like it is going to be difficult for the expeditions that decide to continue. The route above the base camp has been destroyed by the avalanche," Tshering said.
"The future of the Everest climb this season is quite uncertain," he said, adding that Sherpas were worried the season may be over.
Despite the terrible dangers of their jobs — a year rarely passes without at least one death on Everest — the Sherpas, once among the poorest and most isolated people of Nepal, also now have schools, cellphones and their own middle class.
All that is the result of the economy of Mount Everest, which brings tens of millions of dollars to Nepal every year.