As a dishwasher to the summit of the highest mountain in the world. Lhakpa Sherpa has not only done this once. With nine ascents, the 46-year-old is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most successful female Everest climber. This spring, she wants to scale the highest mountain for the tenth time. In her first summit success in 2000 from the southern side of Nepal, Lhakpa was the first woman from Nepal to summit Everest and return alive – Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepalese woman to reach the highest point in the world in 1993, had died on the descent. Lhakpa achieved her eight other Everest successes climbing from the Tibetan north side.
The Sherpani lives in West Hartford, Connecticut. For twelve years Lhakpa was married to George Dijmarescu, a nine-time Everest climber born in Romania. The marriage ended in a “War of the Roses”. A US court finally granded her custody of their children after the divorce. Lhakpa’s son is now of age, the two younger daughters still live with her. To earn a living, Lhakpa Sherpa works 40 hours a week as a dishwasher in a supermarket.
Lhakpa, you want to scale Mount Everest for the tenth time next spring. Will you do it again over the Tibetan north side, again with bottled oxygen, with or without clients?
I am going to climb from the Nepal side with bottled oxygen and two camera men for my documentary. Permits are still available and anyone can still join my expedition.
You are a single mother of two daughter and have a 40-hour job in a supermarket. Everest expeditions are getting more and more expensive. How do you finance your expedition?
I save my money, do speaking engagements and collect donations. I wish I can speak and guide full time and stop washing dishes.
You are already in the Guinness Book of Records as the woman with the most Everest ascents. What motivates you to return to the highest mountain on earth over and over again?
I am addicted to mountain climbing. I enjoy doing it and I feel great after every Everest summit.
What do your children say about your ongoing Everest adventures?
My daughters are very supportive. I took them to Makalu Base Camp back in August and they loved it.
In 2018, you founded “Cloudscape Climbing“, your own trekking and expedition agency. How did it start, do you think you will be able to live from it one day?
I started „Cloudscape Climbing“ so that I can guide people and reach a better life. My dish washing job is temporary, just to take care of my children. Now they are more grown and I can focus more on creating my own business. I know the best Sherpas that are truly excellent climbers. A lot of guiding companies hire any Sherpa, even if they aren’t so experienced. I will one day be able to support myself and my family with „Cloudscape Climbing“.
In recent years, the number of Nepalese women who tackle Everest has increased. How do you assess the development of women climbing in Nepal?
The number of female climbers is increasing however it’s still a small percentage of climbers.
In 2019, the pictures of the traffic jam on the Everest summit ridge went around the world, there was a record number of ascents, but also eleven deaths – and a discussion about the situation on Everest? What do you think has to change on Everest?
The Nepali government puts zero limits on the number climbers that come to Everest. All they care about is selling as many permits as possible. Nothing else matters to them. The next generation of Sherpas are more educated and not willing to risk their lives mountain climbing. The average age of Sherpa guides is increasing and less and less Sherpas will guide. With no Sherpas, no one can climb except for the world‘s most experienced climbers. I think the number of climbers on Everest every year will soon peak and then decrease as guides grow older. Young Sherpas are going to school now and not climbing.