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First live broadcast from Everest

Mount Everest, background, seen from near Everest Base camp, Nepal.
Mount Everest, background, seen from near Everest Base camp, Nepal.

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BEIJING, China -- The first live television pictures were broadcast from the summit of Everest on Wednesday, days before the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of the world's highest mountain.

The broadcast was made by Chinese mountaineers, who reached the 8,848-meters (29,035-ft) peak via the northern slope, which lies in Tibet. They beat a U.S. cable station which was hoping to become the first to beam images from the summit.

Climbers Awang Luobo and Zhaxi Ciren reached the summit first, followed soon after by Nima Ciren, according to The Associated Press. All three are ethnic Tibetans.

The pictures on state-run China Central Television (CCTV), which reaches hundreds of millions of people, showed the jubilant but exhausted climbers resting at the summit in yellow, red and purple parkas, some wearing oxygen masks and goggles.

"The wind is strong, extremely strong. We, the first team, are standing here expressing our best wishes to the Chinese people," Reuters reported one saying into a microphone as he gripped a flapping Chinese flag. High winds forced more than 100 climbers to retreat from the south face of the mountain on Wednesday.

"Today's achievement is a crystallization of solidarity. We hope to climb the summit again in 2008," he said before putting his oxygen mask back on.

The images were beamed by microwave transmitters, according to CCTV, which set up a satellite TV reception station at a camp 6,500 meters (21,330 ft) up the mountain.

The climb came nearly 50 years to the day of the historic May 29, 1953, conquering of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary, a former beekeeper from New Zealand, and his Nepali Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay.

Since then, about 1,200 people have scaled Everest and 175 have died on its slopes. The 83-year-old Hillary will join hundreds of mountain climbers in Kathmandu next week to celebrate their first ascent. Tenzing Norgay died in 1986.

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