KATHMANDU, Nepal — A South African climber was in police custody in Nepal’s capital Wednesday after he attempted to scale Mount Everest without obtaining the mandatory permit, an official said.

Ryan Sean Davy from Johannesburg had been caught by a mountaineering official at the Everest base camp earlier this month and his passport was seized. He agreed to trek down the mountain and surrender to the Tourism Department in Kathmandu, where he was detained on Tuesday.

Tourism Department chief Dinesh Bhattarai said Davy was in police custody for questioning but a decision on his case has not been made. He could be fined $22,000 and banned from visiting Nepal and climbing mountains for years.

He has not been allowed to speak to media since his detention and a motive was unclear.

Permits to climb Everest cost $11,000 per person. The money helps the impoverished country fund government services, including rescues of climbers stricken by injuries and illness while on the mountain.

Hundreds of climbers will try to reach the top of Everest this month, when weather conditions are most favorable on the world’s highest mountain.

The Tourism Department issued a record 371 permits this year to people who will attempt to climb the mountains, and an equal number or more Nepalese Sherpa guides will accompany them.

The first group of climbers reached the summit earlier this week. However, weather near the summit was deteriorating, forcing other climbers to wait.

The increased number of climbers this year likely includes people who returned after being unable to climb in 2014 and 2015.

The 2015 season was scrapped after 19 climbers were killed and 61 injured by an avalanche at the base camp triggered by a massive earthquake. In 2014, an avalanche at the Khumbu Icefall killed 16 Sherpa guides.

Climbers who had permits for the 2014 season were allowed to receive a free replacement permit until 2019, while climbers with 2015 permits were given only until this year.

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