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Anniversary of 1st Everest climb marked quietly amid worries about mountaineering's future

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KATHMANDU, Nepal — Everest Day, marking the conquest of the world's tallest peak 62 years ago, was marked quietly by officials, people in the mountaineering business and a few climbers Friday, little more than a month after an earthquake-triggered avalanche swept the base camp and killed 19 people.

The low-key gathering in Kathmandu, the capital, reflects worry over mountaineering in Nepal, a vital source of income for guides and for the nation's economy. The April 25 earthquake, which killed more than 8,000 people across the Himalayan country, cut the spring climbing season short. The 2014 spring climbing season also ended early, after an avalanche killed 16 Sherpa guides.

New Zealander Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay climbed the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) mountain on May 29, 1953.

Each year, thousands of foreigners attempt to conquer the country's soaring peaks. Sherpas can earn up to $7,000 after a successful summit bid, while those who work at Everest base camp can receive half that amount — huge sums in a nation where the annual per capita income is around $700.

Both avalanches hit Everest right at the beginning of climbing season, when expeditions had gathered at the base camp and were preparing their summit assaults, which typically take place in May.

After last year's avalanche, which hit April 18, the surviving Sherpas refused to work, resulting in the cancellation of the season.

This year, the Sherpas refused to rebuild the route, saying it was unsafe and there was not enough time to transport all the necessary aluminum ladders, tie ropes, dig a path and then finish climbs before the end of the season later this month.

The government charges $11,000 per climber and makes an average of $3.5 million in permit fees a year. Many of those who were to climb Everest this year had permits last year that were renewed due to the shortened 2014 season.

Nepal's Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister Kripasur Sherpa said Friday that the government would consider renewing those permits once more, but that so far, no one had asked.

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