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Ang Rita Sherpa, Nepal's legendary Everest mountaineer, passes away

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Ang Rita Sherpa, the legendary Nepalese mountaineer nicknamed Snow Leopard and famous for having climbed Everest 10 times without the use of supplementary oxygen between 1983 and 1996, passed away yesterday at 72.


Who was Ang Rita Sherpa, the climber who passed away yesterday aged 72, is easy to explain. What would you say about a mountaineer who had successfully climbed Everest without oxygen? And what would you add if the same man had climbed the highest mountain in the world, always without supplementary oxygen, not just once but a staggering 10 times? Obviously you’d be hard-pressed to find the right words to describe him. And it’s just as obvious that few others can be compared to him. Well, this is the exceptional climber that was Ang Rita. A name that many mountaineers may find hard to remember, despite the fact that at home, in Nepal, he was quite rightly considered a hero. And despite the fact that in recent years here in the West one started talking about him, precisely because of his Everest record. Why? some may ask. Was it perhaps because he was a Sherpa? It’s hard not to believe this is the reason why… especially since Himalayan mountaineering has historically always been very a Western, if not in some ways a pure “colonial”, affair.

In any case, between 1983 and 1996 Ang Rita Sherpa climbed the roof of the world 10 times. And he always reached those 8848 meters without bottled oxygen; in doing so he became the first to boast this record. Furthermore, on 22 December 1987 Ang Rita became the first to summit Everest in winter and without O2 (although some state that the expedition cannot be considered a pure "winter" ascent because it started in autumn).

This great Sherpa, who was born in 1948 in the village Yillajung, climbed Everest on 8 occasions via the South Ridge, once via the South Pillar on the Nepalese side of the mountain and once via the North Ridge from Tibet. His first Himalayan experience was as a porter aged 20 on Cho Oyu, after which he never stopped and reached the summitted eight-thousanders a total of 18 times, including those famous 10 Everest climbs.

These astounding numbers aside, there are countless mountaineers that Ang Rita helped (and sometimes even rescued) on the highest mountains in the world.. His ability to survive at altitude, and his experience on the Himalayan giants, was second-to-none and he was an absolute legend at home, receiving two important awards, the Order of Gorkha Dakshina Bahu and the Order of Tri Shakti Patta, for his services. We would like him to be remembered also as a man who enabled many (Westerners and non-Westerners) to climb in the Himalayas. And he do so as a mountaineer and as a guide!

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