“I can climb for a few more years,” said Kami Rita Sherpa some time ago in a BBC interview. “I am healthy. I can go until I am 60 years old. With oxygen it’s no big deal, we were born in the Himalayas.” The 49-year-old reached the summit of Mount Everest at 8,850 meters today at 7.50 a.m. local time – for the 23rd time already – thus improving his own record. “I’ve been always 100 percent focused on my job,” Kami Rita told the BBC. “I never thought about making records. I actually didn’t know that you could make a record. Had I known, I would have done a lot more summits earlier.”
Inspired by his father
Kami Rita Sherpa was born in the village of Thame in the Khumbu region, near Everest. His family lives in the second generation on mountaineering tourism. Kami’s father hired for expeditions in the 1950s. His career ended when he suffered severe frostbite during climbing. “My inspiration has always been my father,” Kami Rita told the newspaper “Kathmandu Post”. “He is the one who drives me forward and always pushes me to do great things. As he never climbed Everest, I wanted to do it for him.” That’s what also Kami’s older brother, Lakpa Rita Sherpa, did, 17 times. Lakpa also wrote history when he became the first Nepali to complete the collection of the “Seven Summits”, the highest mountains of all continents, with a summit success on Kilimanjaro in 2009.
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When Kami Rita stood on the roof of the world for the first time in 1994, he was one of 49 climbers who reached the summit of Everest that spring season. In spring 2018 there were more 802 climbers on the top. Today there is more competition among the Sherpas and more pressure, says the record holder: “The Sherpas are fixing the ropes, and the foreigners give interviews saying Everest is easier or talk about their courage but forget the contributions of the Sherpas. But it is not as easy as they say. We suffer.”
Praying for the blessing of the Goddess
Kami Rita has retained his humility towards Mount Everest. For the Sherpas, Chomolungma, as they call it, is a sacred mountain on which a goddess lives. “Months before I begin an ascent, I start worshipping and asking for her forgiveness because I have to put my feet on her body. Right before the final steps to the summit, others run to take photos but I bow my head again and ask for her forgiveness,” says Kami Rita Sherpa. “No matter how strong you are, how good you prepare, you have to be blessed by God to reach the top.” He had this blessing now for the 23nd time.
P.S.: More summit successes are reported today not only from Everest, but also from Makalu and Kangchenjunga. Among those who reached the summit of the third highest mountain on earth at 8,586 meters was the Swiss Sophie Lavaud – on her 51st birthday. Before her success on Kangchenjunga, Lavaud had already scaled Annapurna on 23 April.
Update 21 May: Today Kami Rita Sherpa summited Everest for the second time within a week – his 24th success.