Legendary Himalayan Alpinist Ang Rita Sherpa Dies at 72

Ang Rita holds the record for most ascents of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen.

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Ang Rita Sherpa, Nepali native and legendary Himalayan alpinist, died on September 21 at the age of 72. Ang Rita was famous for breaking records on Mount Everest, the most impressive of which still stands to this day: he summited Everest ten times without supplemental oxygen, the most ascents sans oxygen of any mountaineer.

Born in the highlands of Northern Nepal, Ang Rita was introduced to mountaineering when he was hired as a porter at age 15. He continued to work as a porter and mountain guide for most of his adult life. At age 20, he summited his first major peak: Mount Cho Oyu, the sixth tallest mountain on Earth. He is believed to have summited 8,000-meter peaks 18 times in total, 10 of which were ascents of Everest, in addition to ascents of K2, Annapurna, Lhoste, and more, almost always climbing without supplemental oxygen.

Ang Rita first climbed Everest in 1983, at age 35. In 1987, for his fourth ascent, he became the first person to summit the world’s tallest peak in wintertime without oxygen. In 1990, on his sixth ascent, he broke the record for most successful climbs of Everest, with or without oxygen, a record which he re-broke in 1996 with his tenth ascent. Ang Rita’s 1996 summit bid came just 12 days after the infamous 1996 Everest disaster; it would be his final ascent of the mountain.

Since then, other mountaineers have climbed the peak more times—Kami Rita Sherpa, hailing from the same region of Nepal as Ang Rita, has now scaled Everest 24 times—though Ang Rita’s record of ascents without supplemental oxygen still stands. Ang Rita is widely regarded among Sherpa to have been the best Himalayan climber of his time. He was given the nickname Snow Leopard by his peers for his uncanny ability to survive at high altitude.

Ang Rita died in Kathmandu on September 21 after a long bout of health complications. He is survived by two sons and a daughter.