Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Monday, 16 February 2009

Brothers plan 24 hours atop Everest

(L-R) Pemba, Nima and Phurba
(Left to right) Pemba, Nima and Phurba have made 16 ascents between them

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Three Nepalese brothers are to try to break a world record by staying on top of Mount Everest for 24 hours.

Pemba Dorje Sherpa, aged 31, and his younger brothers Nima Gyalzen and Phurba Tenzing, intend to use their stay on the summit to pray for peace in Nepal and the world.

They will take with them a 30cm (12-inch) statue of the Buddha to the peak. And they are vowing to stay there for 24 hours whatever the weather.

Climbing Everest is almost second nature to the brothers, two of whom met the BBC at their small trekking agency in a back street of Kathmandu to explain their plans.

Coming from the remote and wild Rolwaling Valley, which lies west of the Everest region, five out of the family's seven brothers (they also have four sisters) have climbed the world's highest peak.

We won't sleep. We will pray 24 hours

Pemba, Nima and Phurba have made 16 ascents between them.

And Pemba is already in the record books having made the summit from base camp in a still-unbeaten eight hours, 10 minutes in May 2004.

The current record for staying on t op is 20 hours. Now that the record-holder, Babu Shiri Sherpa, has died, Pemba feels he can make his bid.

"We can't tell how the weather will be," he says. "We'll take all possible equipment, including ropes. There will be no problem with snow and wind. We're prepared."

'Record and reputation'

The brothers kindly rigged up their small British-made tent in the office to show me. Asked how they would find the space to put it up on the summit, they said they would "make a hole" for it in the snow, straddling the Nepal-Tibet border on the top.

"We won't sleep. We will pray 24 hours," Pemba says.

Pemba and Phurba with tent
The brothers will make a hole for the tent in the snow

He says representatives of Nepal's Hindu, Christian and Muslim faiths will give them religious artefacts to carry alongside the gold-coloured Buddha crafted in Patan, near Kathmandu, which they say they will leave on the top in a glass box.

Surely their venture is dangerous, I wondered.

"Chhaina, chhaina" ("It's not"), mutters Phurba dismissively. "I think it's right. We hope. We try."

"It's a risk but it's not so dangerous," says Pemba.

Most of the brothers' past ascents have been as climbing guides.

This trip, they say, is for "record and reputation".

Although some clothing companies and Nepalese banks are helping with sponsorship, there is not the usual huge money involved because only foreigners require expensive permits.

Mount Everest
The previous record atop Everest is a mere 20 hours

They will of course have a team of helpers, including cooks, none of whom will climb above the South Col (7,900 m/26,000 ft).

This announcement coincides with disappointment for another Nepali mountaineer, Min Bahadur Sherchan.

He climbed Everest last year and was said to be 76 at the time - a year older than Japanese climber Yuichiro Miura, who reached the top two days later.

But reports last week said Guinness World Records had recognised Mr Miura as the oldest as there were not the required documents to prove Mr Sherchan's record.

Mr Sherchan wants to challenge the Guinness decision.

The Sherpa brothers set off on 1 April and are aiming to reach the summit during May.

Their publicity material, say the three brothers, will be reporting every hour on "how the human body reacts to this extreme weather".

It is clearly not a trip for the faint-hearted.

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