KATHMANDU, Nepal – Sherpa climber Kami Rita scaled Mount Everest on Wednesday for a 23rd time, breaking his own record for the most successful ascents of the world’s highest peak.
Rita reached the summit with other climbers Wednesday morning and all of them were reported to be safe, said Gyanendra Shrestha, a Nepalese government official at the mountain’s base camp.
Rita’s two closest peers have climbed the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak 21 times each, but both of them have retired from mountain climbing.
“It is my profession, but at the same time I am setting new world record for Nepal too,” Rita told The Associated Press last month before heading to the mountain.
Rita, 49, first scaled Everest in 1994 and has been making the trip nearly every year since, one of many Sherpa guides whose expertise and skills are vital to the safety and success of the hundreds of climbers who head to Nepal each year seeking to stand on top of the world.
His father was among the first Sherpa guides employed to help climbers reach the summit, and Rita followed in his footsteps and then some. In addition to his nearly two dozen summits of Everest, Rita has scaled several other peaks that are among the world’s highest, including K-2, Cho-Oyu, Manaslu and Lhotse.
Rita was at Everest’s base camp in 2015 when an avalanche swept through, killing 19 people. After that tragedy, he came under intense family pressure to quit mountaineering altogether, but in the end decided against it.
“I know Mount Everest very well, having climbed it 22 times, but at the same time I know I may or may not come back,” he told AP last month. “I am like a soldier who leaves behind their wives, children and family to battle for the pride of the country.”
Rita has been an advocate for other Sherpa guides, who he said do not get the recognition they are due.
He said that before climbers reach the summit to take their photographs announcing their success, there are months of hard work done by Sherpas. The Sherpas are the ones who take care of setting up the camps, carrying the loads on their backs, cooking food and carrying oxygen tanks.
Perhaps most important, it is Sherpas who each year fix ropes and ladders over crevasses and icefalls that make things safer for the hundreds of climbers who will follow them.
“However, when these climbers reach the summit, only their names are highlighted and nothing mentioned about the hard work done by the Sherpas,” Rita said last month.
Sherpa tribespeople were mostly yak herders and traders living deep within the Himalayas until Nepal opened its borders in the 1950s. Their stamina and familiarity with the mountains quickly made them sought-after guides and porters.
On Tuesday, it was a team of Sherpa guides who again were the first to reach Everest’s summit this year, completing their advanced work of setting up ropes and lines.
There are 41 different teams with a total of 378 climbers who have been permitted to scale Everest during this year’s spring climbing season. There are an equal number of Nepalese guides helping them to get to the summit.
Each May, there are usually only a few windows of good weather near the summit during which climbers can attempt to scale the peak.