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May 23, 2023

Kami Rita Sherpa: Conquering Mountains and Inspiring Dreams


  • Khim Ghale

This morning, news of Kami Rita Sherpa’s remarkable achievement reverberated across the globe as he triumphed over the highest peak in the world. With his 28th successful ascent of Mt. Everest, he has once again etched his name into the annals of mountaineering history.

Updating his profile, I envision an innocent face filled with determination. Just before embarking on his journey to Everest from Kathmandu a month ago, he reiterated, “I know that climbing a mountain is like going to war, but I have to go again for my clients and my nation.”

In the span of a week, as he describes it, Kami Rita Sherpa won two battles, pushing the boundaries of human capability. This accomplishment is not just personal but also a significant milestone in the annals of human history.

Kami Rita, a world-renowned and multiple world record holder mountaineer, was born on January 17, 1970, in the remote village of Thame, nestled in the Himalayan district of Solukhumbu, Nepal. Over the course of three decades, Kami Rita has dedicated his life to climbing mountains, earning fame not only for himself but also for nation. With an impressive record of reaching the top of the world an astounding 28 times, Kami Rita’s name has become synonymous with mountaineering excellence and perseverance.

Born in the same village as Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, the legendary guide of Sir Edmund Hillary, Kami Rita was raised on stories of mountaineering. His father, Mingma Chhiri Sherpa, was also a respected mountain guide and a member of the historic Tenzing–Hillary Mt. Everest expedition. However, during that time, the tourism industry in Nepal was underdeveloped, and being a guide was not as lucrative as it is today.

At the tender age of 12, Kami Rita started working as a porter, shouldering heavy loads to support his family, who struggled to make ends meet with his father’s meager income. He vividly remembers the challenges he faced, saying, “On one hand, there was no school in the village to study. I had to walk for three hours to reach school. On the other hand, my father’s income was not enough for our big family.”

Although he only completed schooling up to grade four, Kami Rita absorbed valuable knowledge from the local monastery, where he learned about Buddhism. It was during his early years as a porter that he found an opportunity to work as an assistant guide. As he grew older, his responsibilities and assignments increased, eventually becoming a full-fledged guide. In 1992, he had his first chance to climb Mt. Everest as an assistant guide, but summiting the mountain was not yet within his reach.

Photo by Lala Gurung/Highlights Tourism

During that time, climbers aiming to conquer Mt. Everest were required to have prior experience of scaling a peak at least 8,000 meters high. This requirement aimed to ensure the safety and competence of both guides and climbers. Finally, in 1994, at the age of 24, Kami Rita obtained permission to climb Mt. Everest, successfully reaching its summit. This marked the beginning of his incredible journey as a mountaineer.

After his first ascent of Mt. Everest, Kami Rita found it easier to secure work as a guide. He started receiving regular assignments from companies, consistently achieving a high success rate with his clients. Except for a few intervening years, he climbed Mt. Everest as a guide almost every year. His reputation soared after he set a Guinness World Record by climbing Mt. Everest for the 22nd time in 2018, subsequently becoming the brand ambassador for Seven Summit Treks Pvt. Ltd.

Previously, the world record for most Mt. Everest summits was held jointly by Appa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi Sherpa, both having reached the summit 21 times. Kami Rita’s accomplishment surpassed their record, solidifying his place in mountaineering history. However, he humbly insists that he did not set out to achieve these records. “I came to know about the World Records that I achieved only after I received the first certificate in 2018,” he explains. “I had never dreamed of it and had never worked for records.”

For Kami Rita, mountaineering is not merely a personal pursuit; it is about helping others fulfill their dreams. He prioritizes his clients’ aspirations over personal accolades, stating, “It’s not about climbing for oneself, it’s about helping others to climb, it’s about guiding the way. I must fulfill the dream of a person who has spent millions of rupees rather than climbing for myself.”

Kami Rita’s success can be attributed to his unwavering focus and dedication to his work. He believes that climbing mountains is akin to going to war, where concentration is paramount. To achieve success, he emphasizes the need to maintain a single-minded focus on the task at hand, leaving thoughts of home and family behind. He acknowledges the risks associated with mountaineering and stresses the importance of mental and physical preparedness. He spends the off-season with his family, engaging in exercises and training to keep his body in optimal condition. As the mountaineering season approaches, he meticulously inspects and upgrades his gear, ensuring that everything is in perfect order.

Kamirita Sherpa

Not content with his own accomplishments, Kami Rita recognizes the significance of training for aspiring climbers. He believes that proper training can significantly reduce the risks associated with climbing high mountains. During his early years, access to training was limited, but he emphasizes that today’s climbers have the opportunity to receive training before embarking on their mountain expeditions. He underscores the importance of not only physical strength but also the ability to acclimate to high altitudes.

While Kami Rita has experienced moments of great joy in his climbing career, his true happiness lies in the safe return of his climbers, guides, and support staff. He derives immense satisfaction from helping others realize their dreams and ensuring their safety throughout the expedition. However, there have been moments of sorrow as well. He mourns the loss of climbers he has guided and the tragic incidents that have occurred on Mt. Everest, such as the 2014 avalanche that claimed the lives of 16 Sherpa guides and the devastating earthquake in 2015, which took the lives of 12 people at the Mt. Everest base camp. These events continue to weigh heavily on his heart, and he yearns to overcome the emotional burden they carry.

Looking to the future, Kami Rita is deeply concerned about the welfare of retired climbers and experienced guides. He believes that the government should play a more active role in supporting and recognizing the contributions of these individuals who have brought international acclaim to the country. He highlights the need for secure futures and social security for the guides, as many have been forced to seek opportunities abroad due to the uncertain prospects in Nepal. He urges the government to address these issues to ensure the continued growth and promotion of mountaineering, which serves as the backbone of tourism in Nepal.

In conclusion, Kami Rita Sherpa’s remarkable achievements as a mountaineer have solidified his place among the greats in the field. From humble beginnings as a porter to setting multiple world records, he has remained grounded and focused on his clients’ dreams and safety. Through his unwavering dedication, he has not only conquered mountains but also inspired generations of climbers. Kami Rita’s legacy serves as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the Sherpa people and their invaluable contributions to the world of mountaineering.

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