Nepal's king and prime minister have joined hundreds of mountaineers to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest. King Gyanendra and Prime Minister Lokendra Bahardur Chand are hosting a gala dinner in Kathmandu for climbers who have reached Mount Everest's summit.

The guest of honor is Edmund Hillary, who along with his Sherpa partner, Tenzing Norgay, reached the top of the world on May 29 1953. "I have many memories of those great days on Everest," he said. "Memories of difficulties and danger, and of team spirit."

Tenzing Norgay died in 1986. More than 1,300 climbers have climbed Everest and about 175 have died in trying.

In recent days, Mr. Hillary has criticized environmental damage on Everest and has called for a moratorium on expeditions, to in his words, "give the mountain a rest."

He also says commercial climbing expeditions that take inexperienced climbers to the top of Everest have diminished the experience of climbing the world's highest mountain.