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On May 13, 1994, Kami Rita Sherpa stood atop Mount Everest for the first time in his life. In the next 25 years, he would go on to stand at the top of the world another 24 times. Today, May 7, 2021, he made it 25. This year Kami Rita returned to Chomolungma—as the Sherpa call Mount Everest—and reached the summit again as part of a 13-man rope-fixing team from the south side of the mountain (only 12 of the 13 summitted). He is now the first and only person ever to have stood atop Mount Everest on 25 separate occasions, besting his own record of 24.
Kami Rita is 51 years old and hails from Thame, Nepal, a village that also produced another former Everest-summit record holder, Apa Sherpa. Kami Rita told Rock and Ice in 2018, “I started climbing in 1992. I was a trekking porter. From there it has been step by step.” By 1994 he had become a guide on the mountain, and, as mentioned above, achieved his first summit that year. For much of his career Kami Rita worked for Alpine Ascents International, and in addition to Everest, summited K2, Lhotse, Manaslu and Cho Oyu—the latter mountain eight separate times, no less.
For the better part of three decades now, Kami Rita has returned to the foot of Everest each spring when the punishing winter storm systems begin to dissipate. Asked if each of his trips to the summit has been special in its own way, he demurred: “Not special. Just normal.” Though it might seem somewhat perplexing to the layperson, this humble, no-frills mindset about standing on the top of the world is indelibly related to the fact that, for Kami Rita, guiding on Everest is ultimately a job. “Sherpa are the ones that take people to the high peaks,” he said, “so I just continue my job.”
Yet amid his more utilitarian relationship to the mountain, there is a distinct pride he takes in his summits—a pride not so much of a personal nature, as for his people: “Sherpa are the heroes of the mountains. Without Sherpa nobody is successful.”
This year, Kami Rita is once again working with Seven Summits Treks, who he has been guiding for since 2018. Before notching his 22nd summit in 2018, asked if he might hang up his crampons and call it good if he once again succeeded, he said, “I’m a climbing guide, so I’ll continue working more years.”
In fact, odds are he’ll even be back on top again this year.