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Olympic torch heading to Everest summit

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Olympic torchbearers resume ascent to Everest summit after weather delay
  • Climbers repair two of three Everest camps damaged by snow and winds
  • Flame being held at base camp in specially designed lantern
  • Ascent expected to be broadcast live on China's official television network
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By Tomas Etzler
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EVEREST BASE CAMP, China (CNN) -- Climbers bearing the Olympic torch will attempt to reach Mount Everest's summit Thursday after harsh weather delayed the ascent, officials said Wednesday.

If all goes as planned, the climbers will reach the summit of Everest -- the world's highest point -- by 11 a.m. Thursday (11 p.m. ET Wednesday), Shao Shiwei, deputy director of the Beijing Organizing Committee, said Wednesday.

Two groups will be climbing to the summit: one 12-person team of torchbearers and a seven-person supplemental pickup team, officials said.

Heavy snow and winds up to 140 mph halted the climb last week and damaged several camps along the route, said Zhang Zhijian, spokesman for the mountaineering team.

The camps contain pre-positioned tents and ropes that climbers use during the ascent. Earlier Wednesday, Zhang said two of three camps had been repaired and mountaineers were on the way to fix the third.

By late Wednesday, camps at 23,057 feet (7,028 meters) and 25,557 feet (7,790 meters) had been repaired, Zhang said. He predicted climbers would soon reach the third camp at 27,230 feet (8,300 meters).

From the third camp, torchbearers will begin their final ascent to Everest's peak at 29,035 feet (8,850 meters) above sea level.

The flame rests in the advanced base camp at 21,000 feet (6,400 meters), burning in a lantern designed to protect it from low-oxygen conditions of the high altitude.

The torch was ignited from the main Olympic flame, which began a three-month trek through China Sunday following a global torch relay.

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Chinese officials kept security on the mountain tight to avoid anti-Chinese or pro-Tibet protests. Secrecy kept journalists at the base camp from knowing when the climb might begin, though officials said that climbers need four to six days of good weather to climb to the summit and return.

Despite the secrecy ahead of the event, elaborate technical plans are in place for China's official television network -- CCTV -- to broadcast the ascent live. A camera is expected to follow the flame to the peak, according to officials. The team of about 50 includes 31 climbers along with coaches, advisers and other support staff members.

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