KATHMANDU - Climbing will resume on Mount Everest by next week after an earthquake-triggered avalanche that left 18 people dead on the world's highest peak, a Nepalese government official said Thursday.
Saturday's avalanche that ripped through base camp also destroyed ladders through the treacherous Khumbu icefall higher up the mountain, raising doubts about the future of this year's climbing season.
But tourism department chief Tulsi Gautam advised climbers against abandoning their expeditions, saying repairs were under way so that the spring season could continue for another few weeks.
"The ladders will be repaired in the next two to three days and climbing will continue, there is no reason for anyone to quit their expedition," Gautam told AFP. He also played down concerns of further quakes and aftershocks.
"There is no scientific reason to expect another quake... and we feel the ground is stable enough for climbing despite aftershocks," he said.
Some 800 climbers were on the mountain when the avalanche roared through base camp, leaving 18 people dead and scores injured.
It was triggered by a massive earthquake that has devastated Nepal and left more than 5,500 people dead.
Emergency teams using helicopters evacuated the most seriously injured from base camp, while many trapped higher up the peak were also rescued.
Saturday's disaster was the worst disaster to hit Everest and came just one year after another avalanche killed 16 Nepalese guides, sparking an unprecedented shutdown of the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) high mountain.
Gautam said the government this week held talks with mountaineers and guides who said they were keen to resume climbing.
But expedition organisers said many mountaineers had cancelled their plans to climb, fearing aftershocks.
Nabin Trital, who organises logistics for US-based climbing company Altitude Junkies, said "our clients don't want to climb because of safety concerns".
"There have been so many deaths already," Trital told AFP.
British climber Nick Talbot, who cracked his ribs in the avalanche, told AFP that he was "surprised" by the government's decision.
The 38-year-old, whose teammate was killed in the disaster, said "the sherpas on our team felt very strongly about leaving after the avalanche".
"I would be surprised if others agreed to continue (given) the risks and danger."