A Japanese man who is missing nine fingers will be the first person to attempt to climb Mount Everest since a deadly earthquake rocked Nepal earlier this year. More than 9,000 people were killed, including at least 17 on the mountain.
Nearly four months after the quake triggered a massive avalanche that crashed through the Everest base camp and prematurely ended the spring climbing season, climber Nobukazu Kuriki and a photographer will try to scale the reopened mountain.
Kuriki, who was unsuccessful in his first four attempts to climb Everest — and lost parts of nine fingers to frostbite during his most recent trek — will begin the ascent Tuesday with hopes of reaching the summit in September.
Due to extreme temperatures and shorter days, the autumn climbing season is considered more difficult than the spring, but Kuriki is undeterred.
“The main purpose of my climb is to spread the message that Nepal was safe for climbers and trekkers even after the earthquake,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
The AP reports that Nepal is desperate for tourists to return to the mountain, but not everyone is as eager for Everest to return to business as usual. What with fistfights between climbers, sherpas (the local guides who lead expeditions) threatening to boycott, environmental concerns due to the trash that piles up on the slopes every year, and increased risk due to more frequent avalanches, there have been calls to keep the mountain closed for good. In fact the Washington Post reported that in 2003 Edmund Hillary, the first climber to reach the top of Everest, suggested that Nepal’s government stop issuing climbing permission for a few years.
But for now, Nepal’s reliance on the revenue generated from tourists come to trek the slopes of the Himalayas means the highest peak in the world is once again open to challengers.