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For most climbers, professional or amateur, summiting Mount Everest — Earth’s highest mountain above sea level — once is a crowning achievement. However, don’t tell that to Kami Rita, who scaled the peak of the treacherous mountain for the 22nd time on May 16, 2018 breaking the previous record of 21 successful ascents he shared with two fellow guides. And the veteran mountaineer is not done yet! Prior to embarking on the recent climb, the 48-year-old announced, “My goal is to reach the summit of Everest at least 25 times. I want to set a new record not just for myself but for my family, the Sherpa people and for my country, Nepal.”
Mr. Rita, who earns $10,000 for each Everest expedition, has successfully scaled the mountain almost every year since the age of 24. In his spare time, the Sherpa guide leads visitors to the area’s other high peaks, such as K-2, Cho-Oyu, Manaslu, and Lhotse. Though the most accomplished, Mr. Rita is not the only climber in the family. His father was among the first professional guides to lead foreign mountaineers up Mt. Everest in 1950 and his brother has guided climbers to its peak 17 times.
While Mr. Rita has been fortunate enough to avoid any mishaps, the veteran climber has witnessed his share of tragedies. In 2014, he was at base camp when an avalanche killed 16 Sherpa guides, including five from his team, that were still descending. The following year, an earthquake-triggered snowslide buried 19 people at base camp. The only reason Mr. Rita escaped was because his team’s tents were situated away from the central area.
However, the mountaineer believes that the improvement in equipment and weather forecasting systems has made scaling the Everest slightly easier than it was when he began. He said, “The dangers are still there: the crevasses are deep, and the slopes are unpredictable. But we are not climbing blind like we used to. We are better informed about weather and other conditions on the mountain. Even our clients are more aware, and they train themselves for at least a year before attempting Everest.”
Mr. Rita was not the only one making headlines on May 16. 42-year-old Lhakpa Sherpa, leading a team via the northern Tibetan route, broke her own record when she became the first woman to reach the Mt. Everest peak for the ninth time. Ms. Lhakpa, the daughter of a yak herder, who grew up in the mountains worked as a porter and kitchen help before becoming a guide. Not one to rest on her laurels, Ms. Lhakpa is already preparing to lead a team to scale the world's second highest mountain — Pakistan’s K2 — next year. The now US-resident says, "I keep going to encourage other Nepali women to climb.” We hope both climbers attain their goals!
Resources: theguardian.com, independent.co.uk, outsideonline.com, the australian.co.au