Ang Rita, the legendary Nepalese Sherpa guide “Snow Leopard”, died at the age of 72 after a long illness.
Rita was the first person to climb Mount Everest ten times without bottled oxygen, an achievement for which he was honored and internationally known in his native Nepal.
He suffered health problems for many years and had not climbed since the Everest record in 1996. His daughter Dolma Lhamo said he died in her sleep on Monday in her home on the outskirts of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.
“During his tenure, he was the world’s strongest climber and a star,” his close friend and president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, Ang Tshering Sherpa, told AFP.
This is a huge loss to the mountaineering community.
Ang Tshering Sherpa, President of the Nepal Mountaineering Association
“This is a huge loss to the mountaineering community.”
The Nepalese Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli expressed his condolences.
“I am saddened by the death of the legendary Ang Rita Sherpa … I offer my heartfelt condolences to his family and well-wishers. His records will always be remembered,” he tweeted.
A national hero
The Nepalese tourism department said Rita’s contribution to mountaineering will “be remembered forever”.
Despite being a national heroine, Rita struggled financially and had health problems several years after his record performance. He suffered from liver disease and brain swelling.
Rita also reached the first winter summit of Everest in 1987 without additional oxygen [File: Getty Images]
In 1999 he became seriously ill in his village and his close friend Ang Tshering rented a helicopter to fly him to a hospital in Kathmandu for treatment.
In 2017, he was hospitalized again for months because of persistent brain swelling. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Ang Rita has held the record since 1996, becoming the first man after his first ascent in 1983 to climb the 8,848-meter-high Everest ten times without bottled oxygen.
He was among the first Sherpa guides to achieve international fame for his achievements and an entry in the Guinness Book of Records in 2017.
I am sad to hear the death of the legendary climber Ang Rita Sherpa. His contribution to mountaineering and tourism in Nepal is very great. My condolences to the bereaved. pic.twitter.com/GihGQ9xShK
– Yogesh Bhattarai (@yogesbhattarai) September 21, 2020
In 1987 he also reached the first winter summit of Everest without additional oxygen.
The Nepalese government honored him with the Gorkha Dakshin Bahu First Class and the Tri Shakti Patta First Class.
Start of work at the age of 15
Ang Rita was born in 1948 in the mountain village of Yillajung in eastern Nepal and was 15 when he started working as a porter. He quickly rose through the ranks to become a guide – he climbed some of the highest mountains in Nepal.
According to the authoritative Himalayan database, around 200 climbers have climbed Everest without bottled oxygen, but Ang Rita’s records remain.
Kami Rita Sherpa has climbed Everest 24 times, mostly with the help of bottled oxygen.
Sherpa are an ethnic group from the Himalayan region, many of whom work as guides or support staff for foreign climbers. They carry gear and supplies, and dig paths in snow and ice to help their clients reach the top, usually with little appreciation.
Ang Rita is survived by a daughter and two sons. His body was taken to a monastery in Kathmandu and his funeral will take place this week according to Buddhist traditions.
Rita Sherpa is survived by a daughter and two sons [File: John van Hasselt/Corbis via Getty Images]
Al Jazeera and news agencies