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Everest to be child's play? Or not any more?

world Updated: Jun 08, 2010 17:07 IST

From a feisty American teenager, Jordan Romero became an international celebrity overnight when he summited Mt Everest on May 22, 2010 and became the youngest climber to have conquered the world's highest peak.

Jordan was just 13 when he stood on the 8,848m peak, proving wrong critics who had feared the feat would be beyond such a young boy.

The first men to summit Mt Everest - Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa - were in their 30s when they accomplished the deed in May 1953.

Since then, the climbers have been getting younger and younger, making the mighty mountain look like child's play.

In 2003, when the world celebrated the golden jubilee of the first ascent, Nepali school girl Ming Kipa Sherpa, then 15, became the youngest person to achieve the feat.

Now spurred on by her, Nepali school boy Temba Chhiri Sherpa -- who did it at 16, and finally, Jordan, 13, a famed Nepali mountaineer is trying to set another spectacular Everest record in 2011.

Pemba Dorjee Sherpa, also known as the Everest Express, is on a mission in his home district Dolakha near the Tibetan border.

The 43-year-old, who himself has summitted Mt Everest five times and holds the record for the fastest ascent - in eight hours 10 minutes - is seeking 11-year-old hardy Nepali boys who will be able to eclipse the American teen's record and restore the honour to Nepal.

If he fails to get any response, Pemba has decided to train his nine-year-old son, Chheten Sherpa, for the sensational Everest expedition next year.

However, Pemba may run into an unexpected hurdle.

The government of Nepal has imposed an age restriction on Everest expeditions in order to ensure the safety of climbers. Anyone attempting to climb Mt Everest from the southern route through Nepal has to be at least 16 years old.

Till this year, younger aspirants circumvented the ban by taking the northern route via Tibet where there is no age bar.

Both Ming Kipa and Jordan took the Tibet trail.

But now, stung by the adverse media criticism Jordan's climb triggered, the Tibetan mountaineering authorities are also mulling imposing an age curb.

Senior officials at the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), who hold regular parleys with the Tibet Mountaineering Association, especially over Mt Everest, told IANS that Jordan is likely to be the youngest climber ever since from next year, Tibet will impose an age restriction.

"Jordan Romero was allowed to proceed because the Tibetan authorities did not know about his attempt at first," said an NMA official who declined to be named.

Initially, the American teen had planned to climb via Nepal. But after his team arrived in Nepal and found about the age restriction, they changed plans at the last moment and decided to proceed via Tibet.

When the Tibetan authorities found out about his plans, Jordan had already entered Tibet and so they decided to let him proceed.

"However, from next year, Tibet is also planning a 16-year lower age limit, like Nepal imposes," the NMA official said.