Record holder mountaineer Ang Rita Sherpa–known as the ‘Snow Leopard’, for having climbed Mt Everest 10 times without using supplemental oxygen–passed away on Monday morning at his daughter’s residence in Jorpati, Kathmandu. He was 72.
According to his family and relatives, preparations are being made to take his mortal remains to Sherpa Monastery, where on Wednesday, his final rites will be performed in accordance with Buddhist rituals.
Born in 1948 at Thame, Solukhumbu District, to a family of yak herders, Sherpa got into mountaineering when he was just 15. By the time he was 20, he had made it to the top of Mt Cho Oyu.
In 1983, he scaled Mt Everest for the first time. He did it without the aid of supplemental oxygen, a feat he repeated many times over, all the way through 1996. Over his illustrious career, he also summited Mt K2, Manaslu, Lhotse, Annapurna, and Dhawalagiri, among other notable peaks. He finally gave up climbing after falling sick during an expedition.
Upon learning of his ill health, King Birendra sent his son, Crown Prince Dipendra, to Sherpa’s rented room at Gopikrishna, where Dipendra relayed to him King Birendra’s message: “My father has suggested that you retire from mountaineering.” According to Sherpa’s family sources, that was when he decided to quit mountaineering.
Earlier, when Birendra had asked him what wish or need he wanted fulfilled, he had refrained from taking help. And around 1996, when Crown Prince Dipendra had invited Sherpa to the royal palace, he’d passed up on the offer. But the palace still decorated him for his achievements with the Trishakti Patta, the Gorkha Dakshinbahu state honour.
No mountaineer has yet broken Sherpa’s world record of 10 successful ascents of Mt Everest. But despite all his achievements, after his mountaineering days, Sherpa fell on hard times, made worse by his ailing health. He once shared with journalists that the Indian government had proposed to him that it would arrange for his stay in India, but that he had declined the offer. His daughter, Doma, said that no significant support was provided by the Nepal Government. But she did say that owing to his poor economic condition, the Nepal Mountaineering association had been supporting him, providing him NRs 15,000 a month.
Ang Rita Sherpa is survived by three sons and a daughter. His spouse passed away seven years ago.