A 49-year-old sherpa reached the top of Mount Everest for a 23rd time on Wednesday, creating a new record for the most summits of the world’s highest mountain, Nepali hiking officials said.
Kami Rita Sherpa, a native of Thame village located in the shadow of Mount Everest, reached the 8,850-metre (29,035-feet) summit via the Southeast Ridge route, accompanied by another sherpa, tourism department official Mira Acharya said from the base camp.
His latest ascent took him two summits clear of two fellow sherpas, hiking officials said.
Acharya said Kami, who goes by his first name, reached the top at 7.50 a.m. (0205 GMT) and is now descending to lower camps.
She said about 30 other climbers were on the way to the summit and were expected to top the peak on Wednesday or Thursday when the weather window is expected to remain open.
Kami says he will try and climb the peak two more times.
“I am still strong and want to climb Sagarmatha 25 times,” Kami had told Reuters before leaving for the mountain in March referring to the Nepali name for Everest.
The route taken by him was pioneered by New Zealand’s Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay when they became the first climbers to reach the summit in 1953.
Nearly 5,000 climbers have scaled the peak since the pioneering ascent, many multiple times.
The climbing season ends in May and hundreds of climbers are currently on Everest, trying to reach the top from both the Nepali and Tibetan sides of the mountain.
Tourism, which includes mountain climbing, is a main source of income for cash strapped Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains.
Ethnic Sherpas from the valleys around Everest have become synonymous with high-altitude climbing, crucial for Nepal’s lucrative mountaineering industry, which nets the impoverished Himalayan country more than $4 million a year.
With their unique ability to work in a low-oxygen, high-altitude atmosphere, they are the backbone of the industry, helping clients and hauling equipment up Himalayan peaks.
“It would be impossible for many foreign climbers to summit mountains without the help of a Sherpa,” said Ang Tshering Sherpa, former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.
“They are critical for Nepal’s mountaineering and take a huge risk to keep this industry running,” he added, pointing out that the government does not give them the recognition and financial security they deserve.