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Climbers crowding summit of Everest

A wave of climbers is heading for the summit of Mount Everest in what is expected to be another busy weekend on the world's highest mountain.

Last weekend, four climbers died on their way down from the summit amid a "traffic jam" of more than 200 people scrambling to reach the top as the weather worsened.

A similar crowd is expected this weekend, but there have been no reports of climbers in trouble and the weather is good.

Gyanendra Shrestha, from Nepal's tourism ministry, said he had reports that 82 climbers reached the 29,035-foot summit on Friday morning.

Shrestha, who is at the base camp, said 120 climbers started the last phase of the climb on Thursday night but not all of them reached the summit. He said it was normal for some of the climbers to quit at the last treacherous part of the climb for various reasons.

More climbers are expected to try to reach the summit on Saturday - probably the last day of the current climbing season.

Another official, Mohan Krishna Sapkota, said: "This is the last chance for climbers to attempt to reach the summit. If they can't, then there is not going to be another opportunity this season."

The climbing season normally runs from late March to the first week in June, but this year the season's first clear conditions were last weekend.

The deaths last weekend raised concerns about overcrowding above the highest trail on the mountain. The area above the South Col is nicknamed the "death zone" because of the steep, icy slope, treacherous conditions and low oxygen level.

More than 3,000 people have climbed Everest since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to do so in 1953. Some 225 climbers have died attempting it.

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