Dish­washer gears up for re­turn to sum­mit

China Daily - - WORLD -

WEST HART­FORD, Con­necti­cut — Be­tween rais­ing two daugh­ters and work­ing as a dish­washer at a su­per­mar­ket, Lhakpa Sherpa just doesn’t have time for train­ing to climb Qo­molangma, known in the West as Mount Ever­est. Even so, she has done it a record eight times and hopes to outdo her­self yet again.

The 44-year-old na­tive of Nepal holds the world record for sum­mits of Ever­est by a woman and plans to re­turn this month for what has be­come an an­nual ex­pe­di­tion to the top of the world.

“My body knows that I have al­ready been this high. It’s like a com­puter. It fig­ures it out very quickly. My body knows the high al­ti­tude. It re­mem­bers.”

Lhakpa is rec­og­nized by Guin­ness World Records and is well known in moun­taineer­ing cir­cles, but she spends most of the year liv­ing a mod­est life in ob­scu­rity in Con­necti­cut, where she moved with her now ex-hus­band, an­other well-known climber, in 2002.

She gets up most days at 6 am to walk her two daugh­ters, 16-year-old Sunny and 11-yearold Shiny, to school. Then, be­cause she does not know how to drive, of­ten walks the 3 kilo­me­ters to her job, where she washes dishes and takes out the garbage.

“You would never know she hiked Ever­est un­less you knew her and talked to her about it,” said Dan Fur­tado, the man­ager who hired Lhakpa at Whole Foods. “She’s the most hum­ble per­son I know, and her work ethic is as­tound­ing.”

Lhakpa says that she would have liked to be a doc­tor or an air­plane pilot, but that as a girl grow­ing up in the Sherpa eth­nic com­mu­nity with her four brothers and seven sis­ters, she wasn’t al­lowed to at­tend school.

With­out a for­mal ed­u­ca­tion, she has taken jobs in Con­necti­cut clean­ing houses, as a clerk at a lo­cal con­ve­nience store and as a dish­washer to give her daugh­ters and now­grown son a chance at a bet­ter life in the United States, she said.

“My rent is ex­pen­sive here,” she said, “but this is where the best schools are.”

Lhakpa said she is used to over­com­ing ad­ver­sity. Sherpa girls were dis­cour­aged from climb­ing, but she was a tomboy and would not be de­terred from help­ing the men in her fam­ily, serv­ing as a porter to bring gear to Qo­molangma base camps.

Be­com­ing a climber was harder, she said, es­pe­cially af­ter the first Nepali woman to reach the sum­mit, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, died on her way down the moun­tain in 1993.

Lhakpa joined an ex­pe­di­tion of five women in 2000 who con­vinced the gov­ern­ment to give them a per­mit. She was the first Nepali woman to reach the sum­mit and re­turn alive.

De­spite be­ing known as “the Queen of Ever­est”, to many of her co-work­ers she’s just Lhakpa.

“I don’t need to be fa­mous,” she said. “I want to keep do­ing my sport. If I don’t do my sport, I feel tired. I want to push my lim­its.”


Lhakpa Sherpa dis­plays a flag from the town of West Hart­ford on the sum­mit of Qo­molangma in May 2017.

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