Sherpa climbs Everest at 15 |

Sherpa climbs Everest at 15

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) – A 15-year-old Sherpa who lost five fingers to frostbite last year has become the youngest person to conquer Mount Everest – one of more than 50 climbers to summit the world’s highest peak this week, Nepalese officials said Thursday.

An Austrian climber fell to his death Wednesday just 155 feet from the summit, the Tourism Ministry said. Peter Gerfried Banner, 55, a broadcast engineer from Klusterneuburg, Austria, slipped and fell from an altitude of 28,880 feet, it said, quoting reports from expedition members.

A flurry of expeditions – among them five American climbers – scaled the 29,035-foot summit of the world’s highest mountain from Tuesday to Thursday, taking advantage of a break in high winds and heavy snow that for days had forced climbers to postpone their bid for the top.

Eighth-grade student Temba Tsheri reached the summit on Tuesday morning, said Sonam, the director of Thamserku Trekking, which equipped and sponsored Tsheri’s expedition. Sonam uses one name.

Tsheri broke the record set in 1973 by another Nepalese climber, Shambu Tamang, who climbed Mount Everest at age 17.

Last year, Tsheri was forced to turn back just 160 feet from Everest’s summit due to frostbite, exhaustion and deteriorating weather. Before making his final attempt at the summit, he said he had opened his gloves for about 45 minutes to tie his shoes. When he returned from the mountain, doctors amputated five of his fingers.

On Thursday, American climber Jason Edwards, 43, of Lakewood, Wash., along with Canadians Francois Langlois, 35, David Rodney, 35, and Deryl Kelly, 28, and Peruvian Maxino Zambrano, 44, reached the summit. They were assisted by nine Sherpas.

Earlier in the day, a member of an Indian army expedition reached the summit with four Sherpas. Seven Indians from the expedition reached the top with three Sherpas on Wednesday.

Also Wednesday Paul Giorgio, 36, an investor from Auburn, Mass., and Richard Paul O’Bryan, 47, of Ohio, scaled the summit with Canadian Grant Maclaren, 32, and Tuno Findik, 29, of Turkey, assisted by four Sherpas.

Another team was led by Guillermo Benegas, 32, of Berkeley, Calif., and included James Sparks, 55, of Lyons, Colo., and Alexander Allan, 45, from Scotland. They were assisted by four Sherpas.

The Chilean expedition put three women and two men – all from Santiago – and four Sherpas on the summit.

The mountaineering season in Nepal ends May 31, when climbers must return from the mountains before monsoon rains in the region bring heavy snow.

Since the season began on March 1, teams have set up their base camp at 17,500 feet, acclimatizing and preparing for the climb. Climbers usually spend the first few weeks setting up higher camps, opening the route and getting ready for the final climb.

Everest has been climbed more than 800 times since the first documented climb by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953. More than 180 people have been killed on its unpredictable slopes.

Ministry officials said the remaining half a dozen teams were expected to push for the summit in the next few days.

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