Sherpa guide aiming to climb Everest for record 22nd time
Kami Rita is one of just three people to have reached the top of the world 21 times.
A veteran Nepalese Sherpa guide is about to attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest for a record-breaking 22nd time.
Kami Rita is one of just three people to scale Everest 21 times. The other two have retired, but he is heading back to the mountain, saying climbing is a family tradition and pays well in a country with rampant poverty.
“My goal is to reach the summit of Everest at least 25 times,” he said in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, shortly before heading back to the mountain for what he hopes will mark his record-breaking climb.
“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 wants the number of Everest climbers to be limited. The mountain has only a brief window of weather good enough for summit attempts, normally in mid-May, which regularly results in mountaineering traffic jams.
But since Nepal opened to foreign trekkers in 1950, the 48-year-old says climbing has become safer, with better equipment and complex weather forecasting to warn of the mountain’s deadly storms
His father was among the first professional guides after Nepal opened to foreign trekkers and mountaineers.
His brother has scaled Everest 17 times, and most of his male relatives have reached the top least once.
He decided to become a guide when he was a child. “Growing up in the village I envied the good clothes and things that people in in the village brought back after expeditions,” he said.
He first scaled the 29,000ft Everest at 24, and has made the trip almost every year since then.
He has also climbed many of the region’s other high peaks, including K-2, Cho-Oyu, Manaslu and Lhotse. In the autumn, he guides clients to smaller peaks in Nepal.
As a veteran guide, he earns about 10,000 US dollars (£7,000) for each Everest climb, an enormous income in a country where most people about 700 dollars (£500) per year.
The other two summit record-holders are also Sherpas. Apa, a 58-year-old guide who uses only one name, retired in 2011 and moved to Utah.
Phurba Tashi, 47, retired from high-altitude climbing in 2013 but still works at Everest’s Base Camp, helping organise expeditions.
Mr Rita said: “There are many risks in climbing, which is always unpredictable and dangerous. But I have had to keep doing this because I don’t know anything else.”
He was at Base Camp when an avalanche struck in 2014, killing 16 Sherpa guides, including five from his team.
The next year, an earthquake triggered another avalanche that ripped through Base Camp, killing 19 people. He escaped only because his team’s tents were set up that year on the far side of Base Camp.
Sherpa guides now have better insurance coverage, and the Nepal government has begun issuing certificates for successful climbs to guides.
“Now we have proof to show our clients of the climbs we have achieved, which helps us,” he said.
Mountaineering has been his professional life, but it weighs heavily on his family.
His wife, Lakpa Jangmu, dreads when he leaves for expeditions.
“I keep telling him we could look for other jobs, start a small business,” she said. “But he does not listen to me at all.”