4 ascents of Everest in 10 days: the battle of the Sherpas for a climbing record
Two Nepalese Sherpas take things one step further on the roof of the world.
Pasang Dawa Sherpa and Kami Rita Sherpa, decorated mountain guides and friends, have climbed Mount Everest in quick succession in recent days in pursuit of the record for most climbs of the world’s highest peak.
It’s a grueling competition with monetary rewards and plenty of danger, turning what is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most climbers into a repeat performance for veteran Sherpas.
The pair have been trying to outdo each other for decades, but the rivalry has intensified this year. Their streak of ascents began on May 14, when 46-year-old Pasang Dawa Sherpa summited Everest for a record 26th time. A few days later, Kami Rita Sherpa, 53, regained the crown with her 27th ascent of the mountain.
Then, on Monday, Pasang Dawa Sherpa – eight days after its previous ascent – did it again. A day later, Kami Rita Sherpa reached the summit once again, for a new mark of 28 summits.
It was unclear whether Pasang Dawa Sherpa was planning a third ascent of Everest this season, which began in April and ends the first week of June. Such a feat has never been attempted in the history of Everest ascents, mountaineering experts say.
Kami Rita Sherpa’s expedition agency said he wanted to achieve 30 climbs before retiring. Pasang Dawa Sherpa’s agency said he was determined to match and eventually break Kami Rita Sherpa’s record. Neither man was available for comment.
Not everyone in the mountaineering world applauded the friendly contest. Ang Tshering Sherpa, former head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said any competition on the mountain could become deadly.
“Competition in the mountains is a risk to life,” he said. “Unhealthy competition should be discouraged.”
Sherpas, the backbone of Nepal’s climbing industry, have suffered nearly a third of the 315 deaths recorded on Everest over the past century, according to the Himalayan Database, a recording body mountaineers.
Since Pasang Dawa Sherpa first climbed Everest in 1998, he has occasionally ascended the mountain twice a year, and he has made at least one ascent almost every year, with a pandemic and quake hiatus. land in Nepal.
Just like Kami Rita Sherpa.
Their competition reflects the limited resources of the climbing industry. A shipping company with a Sherpa record can attract more customers. Expedition agencies offer money to Sherpas – the exact amounts are unclear – for each record high.
This year, Nepal’s tourism department issued 478 permits to foreign climbers for Everest, and around 900 people were expected to summit, including Sherpas. So far this season, 10 climbers, including four Nepalese guides, have died on Everest.
Sherpas are the driving force behind every conquest of Everest. They fix ropes, repair ladders and transport food and equipment.
Most, including Pasang Dawa Sherpa and Kami Rita Sherpa, grew up around Everest, their dreams of a better life hinged on the money they earned when they helped a foreigner climb Everest. But many leave the profession because of its dangers, low pay and limited safety net.