Nepali Sherpa aims for record 22nd Everest summit
KATHMANDU – Agence France-Presse
But to Kami Rita Sherpa, who has worked as a guide on Everest for over two decades, climbing to 8,848 meters is a job not a record-shattering feat.
“I did not start climbing to set a world record. But in the course of my work in the guiding industry this is going to be my 22nd ascent. It wasn’t for any competition,” Kami Rita told AFP in Kathmandu before setting out for the mountain.
When 48-year-old Kami Rita first summited Everest in 1994, he was one of just 49 climbers to reach the peak.
Last year, 634 people made it to the top.
Over the last two decades the booming number of climbers on Everest has created a lucrative mountaineering industry in both China and Nepal, which share the peak.
In Nepal -- home to eight of the world’s highest peaks -- the climbers provide vital income: Last year the impoverished country netted over $4 million in permit fees on Everest alone.
Each year hundreds of climbers begin gathering at the foot of the world’s highest peak from early April, turning the base camp into a bustling nylon tent city.
They spend nearly two months on the mountain to acclimatize to the harsh high altitude environment before attempting to reach the summit in May.
The cheapest operators charge clients around $20,000 to take them to the top of the world, a quarter of the amount demanded by the most expensive.
Kami Rita, who has worked for U.S.-based Alpine Ascents for much of his career, said the key differences between the operators is how well they train -- and pay -- their Sherpa guides.
“Some foreigners [climbers] seek only cheap options which means they will get low quality, cheap Sherpa. If they pay high price they will get a high price [quality] Sherpa,” he said.
Most paying climbers try to reach the summit with the help of a dedicated Sherpa guide, but the number of experienced Sherpa has not been able to keep pace with demand, warned Kami Rita.
“Earlier, we had to knock on the companies’ doors for jobs. Now the tables have turned, the companies have to please the Sherpas to work with them. Why? Because there is shortage,” he said.
This season -- which marks the 65th anniversary of the first summit of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay -- is expected to be as busy as last.
Meanwhile, for Kami Rita it is just another year of work.
“I am not extremely happy, excited or very sad no matter how many times I climb. There are many Sherpas who have held world records, I am just starting.”
“My life is just normal,” he added as he headed off for the top of the world.