KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Taking advantage of favorable weather, 54 Westerners and Nepali Sherpa guides scaled Mount Everest on Thursday, mountaineering officials said.
The climbers lined up the narrow path leading to the 29,035-foot summit, the world's tallest peak, with most of them reaching the top in the morning.
They had all begun a final push to the summit Wednesday night from the highest camp on the slopes, said Nepal's Ministry of Tourism, which handles all mountaineering affairs. Most climbers had been boxed in either at base camp or higher level camps for days.
There are 11 teams of about a dozen climbers each, plus Nepali Sherpa guides on the Everest slopes. Most were expected to try for the summit in the next two days.
Among those to scale Everest was Appa, 43, a veteran Sherpa guide who reached the summit for the 12th time, shattering his own record set last year.
Ellen Miller, 43, of Asheville, N.C., climbed the mountain from the southern side, becoming the first American woman to scale the world's highest peak from the northern and southern sides, the tourism ministry said.
Miller had scaled Everest from the northern side last year.
Phil and Susan Ershler of Bellevue, Wash., also reached the summit Thursday, becoming the first couple to climb the highest peaks on each of the world's seven continents together, according to their spokesman, Dan McConnell.
Also among the climbers were the son and grandson of the pioneers who first scaled Everest 49 years ago.
Sir Edmund Hillary's son, Peter Hillary, 47, and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay's grandson, Tashi Wangchuk Tenzing, 37, were on different teams, but planned to meet at the summit to begin a year of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the 1953 climb.
Everest has been climbed more than 1,000 times. Authorities say 180 climbers have died on its unpredictable slopes.
The official mountaineering season ends May 31, when the climbers must return to base camp, as monsoon rains make climbing difficult and dangerous.