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Nepal sherpa spends 21 hours atop Mt. Everest

KATMANDU, Nepal -- A Nepali sherpa began descending Mount Everest on Friday after spending a record 21 hours atop the world's tallest mountain, Nepal's Tourism Ministry said.

Babu Chiri Sherpa, who reached the 29,028-foot summit at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, was on his way back to South Col camp."He spent 21 hours at the top," ministry spokesman Shailendra Raj Sharma said.

The longest time climbers have spent atop the Everest summit has not been recorded, but mountaineering experts say only a few have spent more than a couple of hours.

One Australian and a New Zealander spent 13 hours overnight in a hole dug in the snow 65 feet below the summit in May 1994 because one of them was too exhausted to descend.

Babu Chiri, a 33-year-old resident of Taksindu in Solukhumbu district in the Everest region, had climbed Everest seven times before.

Eighteen climbers from the United States, Australia, Britain, Sweden, Canada and Nepal climbed Everest on Wednesday along the same route used by Babu Chiri, who was part of the 1999 International Everest Expedition of Sweden.

Eight hundred people -- 163 of them Nepalis -- have scaled Everest since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa completed the first successful ascent in May 1953.

About 161 people have died on Everest on the Nepali and Chinese sides, from where it is open to climbers.