National Post (Latest Edition)
First to climb Everest 10 times
‘ snow leopard’
Ang Rita Sherpa, who has died aged 72, was the first man to climb Mount Everest 10 times, and in 2017 entered the Guinness Book of World Records for doing so without using supplementary oxygen.
Ang Rita, a Nepalese mountain guide, first conquered the world’s highest mountain in May 1983, assisting a German- American expedition, and made it to the top for the 10th time in May 1996 as a guide to a Swedish expedition. After his eighth ascent in May 1993 a local newspaper gave him the nickname “snow leopard.”
He was taciturn and built like a bull, with a sunken face burnt by the high- altitude sun of Nepal. Away from the mountain, Ang Rita was a different man from the agile snow leopard on the slopes.
“On flat land, he is an unashamed alcoholic, starting his day with frequent swigs from a litter of bottles lying around and ending up with a series of drunken binges around the city,” claimed a 1997 profile. “I don’t apologize for my drinking, but once on the mountain, I don’t touch the stuff,” Ang Rita was quoted as saying.
A son of a yak herder, Ang Rita Sherpa was born on July 2, 1948 in eastern Nepal. After being orphaned in his teens, he became a mountaineering porter to help support his family.
His first expedition to the highest Himalayan peaks was in 1982, up the 8,167- metre Dhaulagiri in western Nepal.
He also breasted the 8,586- metre Kanchenjunga twice and scaled the 8,201- metre Cho Oyu and Dhaulagiri four times apiece. He always claimed he felt more comfortable climbing without oxygen bottles.
Ang Rita was recognized by Guinness World Records for being the first man to climb Everest without oxygen in winter — a feat he achieved in December 1987.
The Nepalese Government gave Ang Rita two of the country’s highest civilian honours as well as some land in Kathmandu; he also got a small stipend from the Nepal Mountaineering Association. But, due to his problems with alcohol, Ang Rita, who lived in a one- room tenement, struggled with money.
He also suffered brain and liver ailments, health problems that worsened after his eldest son Karsang Namgyal, an experienced climber, died of altitude sickness during an expedition in 2012.
Ang Rita’s wife died a year later. Two sons and a daughter survive him.