Rescued U.S. climber won't re-join Everest team

KATHMANDU Thu May 3, 2012 7:06am EDT

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - A U.S. climber helicoptered off Mount Everest over fears of altitude sickness said on Thursday he will not be allowed to rejoin his team's effort to scale the world's highest peak.

Cory Richards, 30, who was part of a nine-member U.S. expedition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first American ascent of the 8,850 meter (29,035 feet) peak, was airlifted from the mountain to Kathmandu at the weekend after he suffered breathing problems while climbing at an altitude of about 7,000 meters (23,000 feet).

"Every test we have done has come perfect and doctors said it is not altitude related at all," Richards, a native of Boulder, Colorado, told Reuters in the Nepali capital. But he said his climbing partners thought it was still too risky for him to go back to the mountain.

"I am frustrated that the team has made a decision for me in spite of numerous positive results that indicate nothing untoward," said Richards, a photographer for National Geographic magazine and outdoor gear maker North Face, who sponsored the expedition. "It has been very hard for me."

Richards and another climber Conrad Anker were to climb the rarely used and difficult West Ridge route to the summit, repeating the ascent of two American climbers who pioneered the trail in 1963.

The other seven climbers are climbing the standard Southeast Ridge route taken by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953 when they became the first climbers to conquer Everest.

The sons of two other climbers from the 1963 American expedition are also trying to replicate their fathers' feat each climbing with different teams and separate routes, nearly 50 years after the historic ascent of their fathers.

More than 300 climbers are on the slopes of Mount Everest during the current season which started in March.

They are expected to make summit bids when the weather clears later this month before the onset of the monsoon season.

Nearly 3,700 people have climbed Mount Everest and at least 231 have died on its slopes.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma)

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