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KATHMANDU - Nepal said on Tuesday it was investigating whether a Chinese woman, this season's sole climber of Mount Everest from the Nepalese side, used a helicopter to reach a high camp after a deadly avalanche last month washed away part of the route.
Using a helicopter would constitute a serious moral violation of tradition in climbing the world's highest peak. But Wang Jing, 40, who completed the climb last Friday, denied she had used the aircraft to advance up the mountain.
The April 18 avalanche killed 16 Nepali guides, who were fixing ropes and ferrying supplies for their foreign clients to scale the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) peak. Guides then refused to accompany foreign climbers out of respect for their dead colleagues and hundreds had to abandon their expeditions.
Wang completed her climb with five Sherpa guides arranged privately to become the first to go up from the Southeast Ridge route after the deadliest accident in the mountain's history.
Authorities said they were looking into reports that Wang took the helicopter and flew over the route damaged by the avalanche to the site of Camp II at 6,400 meters (20,997 feet).
"We have asked the helicopter company whether they flew Wang to Camp II as reported," Madhusudan Burlakoti, a senior official at the Tourism Ministry, told Reuters.
Nepal normally allows helicopters above Everest base camp located at about 5,400 meters (17,716 feet) to rescue climbers in distress or to drop climbing equipment and supplies.
Climbers must walk on ropes and aluminum ladders fixed on snow, including over the treacherous Khumbu Icefall, known for crevasses and avalanches.
Burlakoti said Wang, who returned from the summit at the weekend, had denied using any helicopter for climbing, but acknowledged having one drop her cook and a porter at Camp II with supplies. He declined to say what action Wang faced if she was found to have flown to Camp II.
Wang could not be reached for comment.