Mount Everest: Two missing climbers – Kami Rita Sherpa’s 30th summit success

Nepalese side of Mount Everest
Nepalese side of Mount Everest (seen from Kala Patthar in 2002)

The many success stories from Mount Everest are intermingled with the sad news of two missing climbers on the highest mountain on earth. The newspaper “Himalayan Times” reports that a British and a Nepalese mountaineer fell yesterday, Tuesday, while descending from the summit at the height of the former Hillary Step (8,790 meters). There has been no trace of them since then. The chances of finding them alive are dwindling by the minute.

If the two are declared dead, it would be the third and fourth deaths on Mount Everest this season. Last week, two Mongolian climbers passed away on the descent. In addition, a Romanian climber who wanted to climb the neighboring eight-thousander Lhotse without bottled oxygen also died yesterday in Camp 3 at around 7,300 meters.

Kami Rita’s 30th Everest ascent

Kami Rita Sherpa on the summit of Everest (12 May)
Kami Rita Sherpa on the summit of Everest (12 May)

In the flood of summit successes, such tragic fates are almost drowned out. This Tuesday, the news of Kami Rita Sherpa‘s 30th ascent of Everest made the rounds of news sites around the world. No other person has stood on the 8,849-meter-high summit more often than the 54-year-old mountain guide from Nepal. Ten days ago, on 12 May, Kami Rita ticked off ascent number 29 – as always with bottled oxygen.

Multiple ascents in one season are no longer a rarity. Kami Rita’s employer, Seven Summit Treks, reported that Dawa Finjok Sherpa had already led clients to the summit for the third time this spring and was due to climb a fourth time. There are now also some clients who have discovered multiple ascents in one season (with bottled oxygen and Sherpa support) as an opportunity to market themselves. Nepalese journalist Purnima Shrestha and Ukrainian Valentyn Sypavin, for example, are aiming for three Everest summit successes this spring; they already have two to their name, and Sypavin also has an ascent of Lhotse under his belt.

First ascent 30 years ago

Kami Rita Sherpa's first Everest summit certificate
Kami Rita’s first Everest summit certificate (in 1994)

For Kami Rita Sherpa, Everest has been his bread and butter for three decades. He 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 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. It was also the older brother who got Kami Rita his first Everest job in 1992. In 1994, the younger of the two stood on the roof of the world for the first time.

Mental and physical strength – and humility

Kami Rita Sherpa
Up Mount Everest again and again

In his guidebook “How to climb Everest”, Kami Rita describes his secret to success: “When I’m on Everest I’m totally focused.” Longing for family, homesickness, all of that, he says, must be pushed aside and “make the mountain your home instead”. In addition, physical fitness must come into play, but even this is not enough, according to the Sherpa: “Lots of people think, because they’re in good shape, they won’t suffer from altitute, but sometimes it’s the fittest people who get into the biggest trouble. When it comes to mountain, humility is everything.”

The record holder has maintained that humility throughout his nearly three decades on Mount Everest: “Just because we see ourselves as experts in something doesn’t mean we`ve owned the right to be close-minded. Because the mountain doesn’t know you’re an expert. So before you start, prepare yourself to maintain your humility. It may just save your life.”

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