Nepali sherpa guide dies on world's fourth-highest peak

Kathmandu (AFP) - A Nepali sherpa guide fell 2,000 metres to his death Thursday while guiding Indian soldiers in an attempt to summit Lhotse, the world's fourth-highest peak, an expedition agency said.

The 25-year-old guide, who had summitted Mount Everest twice, was nearing the top of neighbouring 8,516-metre (27,940-foot) high Lhotse when he slipped.

"He was guiding our Indian Army expedition to Lhotse... when the accident happened at around 11:40 am (0555 GMT) today," Thupden Sherpa, manager of Arun Treks & Expeditions told AFP.

"We are sending helicopters to retrieve the body," he said.

The accident comes as hopes mount for a successful season on nearby Everest, which has seen scores of summits in the past seven days, ending a years-long drought after two deadly disasters.

Nine Nepalis last week became the first group of climbers in three years to summit the world's highest peak, paving the way for others to follow.

"We have already recorded 88 summits this season, including 52 by Nepali climbers," said tourism department chief Sudarshan Prasad Dhakal.

"We are expecting more than 100 other people to summit today," Dhakal told AFP.

Hundreds of climbers fled the 8,850-metre peak last year after an earthquake-triggered avalanche at Everest base camp killed 18 people.

Only one climber summitted the mountain in 2014 after an avalanche killed 16 Nepali guides. China's Wang Jing reached the top after using a helicopter to transport tent equipment to higher camps following the cancellation of that year's mountaineering season.

Nepal issued 289 permits to mountaineers for this year's brief spring climbing season, which runs from mid-April to the end of May.

Since the first summit of Everest in 1953, more than 300 people, most of them locals, have died while attempting to scale Everest and Lhotse, which share the same route until Camp 3 at 7,200 metres.

Falls are among the most common causes of death on the mountain and the Lhotse Face is especially steep and icy, the cause of many falls.

Mountaineering is a major revenue-earner for the impoverished Himalayan nation but last year's earthquake, which killed almost 9,000 people, threatened the future of the country's climbing and trekking industry.