Defying an age bar on Mt. Everest climbers imposed by two countries, a nine-year-old Nepali boy is set to attempt to scale the world's highest peak. If he succeeds, he will break the world record for the youngest climber set this year by a 13-year-old American schoolboy.
Tseten Sherpa, a third grader from Dolakha district in northern Nepal, has begun practising for his big feat next year, his father and wellknown Everest climber Pemba Dorjee Sherpa said.
On Wednesday, Tseten climbed Mt Ramdung, a 5,925-metre peak in Dolakha, as a practice run for the 8,848-metre Mt Everest next summer.
However, there is an insurmountable barrier that the nine-year-old will have to overcome first.
As per Nepal's laws, only a climber above 16 years is allowed to climb Mt Everest from the Nepal side.
To circumvent the age bar, intrepid teenaged climbers had in the past chosen the northern route through Tibet.
In 2003, Nepali schoolgirl Ming Kipa Sherpa became the youngest person at the age of 15 to summit the world's highest peak.
However, this year the China Tibet Mountaineering Association, which regulates all mountaineering expeditions in China-controlled Tibet, issued new climbing rules, putting an age bar on Everest expeditionists.
As per the new rules, a climber has to be at least 18. Also, for the first time prescribing an upper age limit, the association said a climber older than 60 will not be allowed to attempt the peak.
The decision came after the Chinese authorities drew a lot of flak this year following Californian schoolboy Jordan Romero's bid to scale Mt Everest.
Though Jordan pulled off the feat in May and became the youngest Everest hero ever, the debate his attempt triggered made the Chinese authorities come up with new regulations to pre-empt such bids in future.
Pemba's attempt to wrest away the record from the American schoolboy has met with disapproval by Nepal's mountaineering officials.
"Tseten lives in Dolakha and therefore may climb a local mountain under the care of his father," said Nima Norbu Sherpa, acting president of Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) that promotes mountaineering in Nepal.
"However, the current government regulations in both Nepal and Tibet indicate that he will not be issued a permit to climb Mt. Everest. Even if he does it, the feat will not be given official recognition as long as these age limits remain in place."
Ang Tsering Sherpa, immediate past president of the NMA, said climbing the Everest without a government permit was a punishable offence.
"The permit fee is about $70,000," he said. "The fine will be double that. And the inability to pay the fine could result in imprisonment."
Famous mountaineers, including Sir Edmund Hillary, who with Tenzing Norgay became the first man to set foot on the Everest, had always criticised the new fad to climb Mt Everest to set new records, calling it a trophy-hunting expedition that went against the true spirit of mountaineering.