Nepal will cut climbing fees for Mount Everest to lure more mountaineers to the world's highest peak, already overcrowded during the peak climbing season.
Hundreds of foreign climbers, each paying thousands of dollars, flock to the 8,850-metre (29,035 feet) Everest summit during the main climbing season stretching from March to May.
Under existing rules, Nepal charges $25,000 per climber as a license fee, or royalty. But a group of seven people can secure a permit for $70,000, a practice officials say encourages climbers to form big groups.
Tourism Ministry official Tilakram Pandey said each climber will be charged $11,000 from next year to end the practice.
"The change in royalty rates will discourage artificially formed groups, where the leader does not even know some of the members in him own team," Pandey said.
"It will promote responsible and serious climbers."
He said the new rates will apply for the peak season on the Southeast Ridge, or South Col, route pioneered by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953.
Permits for other routes and for the rest of the year, when the mountain is virtually deserted, will cost as little as $2,500 to encourage off-season climbing, officials said.
But experts said most mountaineers would still favor the spring season, because of warmer weather and more daylight, and the standard route.
Fees for hundreds of smaller peaks have also been changed.