Veteran Nepalese Sherpa guide Ang Rita, the first person to climb Mount Everest 10 times without bottled oxygen, Monday died at age 72 after a long illness.
He was born in 1948, in a small village called Yillajung in eastern Nepal, and started working as a Sherpa at a young age to provide for his family. He was living in Kathmandu where he will be cremated this Wednesday in a traditional Sherpa ceremony.
The first time he crowned the top of Everest without using artificial oxygen was in 1983. He was also the first to crown it in winter without using breathing accessories.
Kami Rita, who holds the record for climbing Everest (24), told Spanish outlet EFE that “his courage and dedication can never be described in words. It takes dedication, passion, and courage to climb Everest without the aid of oxygen. He made the country proud, but the government of Nepal knew nothing about him.”
The Guinness World Records (GWR) recognized him in 2017 as the only person to have climbed Everest 10 times without supplemental oxygen. GWR had recognized him before as the first man to climb Everest in winter without supplementary oxygen in December 1987.
Despite his fame, Rita struggled financially and with his health, including liver illness and swelling of the brain. Once, former Nepal Mountaineering Association President Ang Tshering had to hire a helicopter to flew him to a hospital for treatment, because the Sherpa was not able to afford it.
Known as the “Snow Leopard,” Rita was also an activist and joined a non-profit group called The Mountain Institute, committed to helping remote mountain communities to take care of the fragile environments that surround them.