‘Snow Leopard’ Ang Rita Sherpa passes away

Eak Raj Bastola

September 21, 2020


‘Snow Leopard’ Ang Rita Sherpa passes away

Ang Rita Sherpa. (File Photo)

KATHMANDU: Ang Rita Sherpa, popularly known as ‘The Snow Leopard’ has passed away on Monday morning at the age of 72.

Chhetu Sherpa, General Secretary at Pasang Lhamu Foundation, informed that he died at 10 am today  at his daughter’s residence at Jorpati, Kathmandu.

He was suffering from liver and brain ailment.

He took up his mountaineering profession as a porter when he was 15 years old. When he was a child, he used to herd yaks, carry commodities and trade them in Tibet and take care of farming.

Ang Rita, the recipient of two Guinness World Records for the most climbs of Mt Everest without oxygen and climbing the Mt Everest in winter without supplementary oxygen in 1987. He was orphaned in his teens and was compelled to accept mountaineering as a profession to support his family.

Climbing Mt Everest for ten times without oxygen initially was not an easy task for him. However, in 1983, he succeeded in reaching the top of the world, 8,848 meters, without supplementary oxygen.

Initially, he was hired as a low altitude porter for Dhaulagiri expedition. Ang Rita then had to undertake the job of high altitude porter carrying loads up to Camp III without shoes and other mountaineering gears.

His successful climb to Camp III on Dhaulagiri boosted his confidence. He then thought he would now carve a niche in the mountaineering field in the future. However, his enthusiasm was shattered when his ‘seniors’ did not allow him to go above camp II because he was ‘inexperienced’.

Despite his confidence and strength, circumstances always let him down. He recalls some occasions when he had to endure humiliation during expeditions. He, however, did not give up.

Finally, Ang Rita said, opportunity knocked at his doors when he was offered a job of a high altitude Sherpa porter for a Swiss expedition in Dhaulagiri. This was like a dream comes true for him. He then reached the peak of Dhaulagiri twice.

For this young Sherpa porter, it was a sort of ‘major accomplishment’ in mountaineering profession, which boosted his confidence further.

As time went on, he got an opportunity to reach Camp IV of the Mt. Everest with a British Army expedition which he labels as a milestone for his success. His dream to step on the highest peak on earth came true on May 7, 1983, while assisting a German-American expedition.

He recalls some moments of fatal accidents that occurred in front of his eyes, which he says still floods into his memory. His colleague Josef Demzan died while descending from the summit during the Everest conquest in 1984.

Undeterred by mountain accidents, Ang Rita continued his exploits on the mountains and helped Norwegian Arne Naess step atop the world’s highest peak in spring.

As a poor Sherpa without any formal education or training as a climber, he started accompanying international celebrities in the mountains as he graduated to a guide from a porter. He successfully climbed Cho Oyu, Kangchenjunga, Makalu II with American, Spanish, German, Chilean expedition teams in 1986 and 1987.

He returned to Everest and recorded his only winter ascent of the mountain in 1987/88 season while assisting a South Korean expedition.

Ten months later on the 10th of October 1988, he scaled Mt Everest with a Catalan team. His sixth summit in the mountain was in 1990 helping the first all-Nepali army expedition. He accompanied the first successful Chilean expedition to the top of the world in the spring of 1992 and a Spanish team in 1993.

His only ascent of the mountain from the north in Tibet was in 1995 spring helping a Russian-Ingosethian expedition. His latest (10 times summit without auxiliary oxygen) and hopefully not the last, ascent of Everest was in 1996 helping the first Swedish expedition atop the mountain.

With professional skills and experience as a climbing guide for so long, Ang Rita has established his own trekking company in Kathmandu. His two sons – Karsang Sherpa and Chhewang Sherpa – have been following his footsteps.

Ang Rita Sherpa was born in 1949 in Solukhumbu.

His ascents:

May 7, 1983

Oct 15, 1984

April 29, 1985

Dec 22, 1987 (Winter!)

Oct 14, 1988

April 23, 1990

May 13, 1992

May 16, 1993

May 13, 1995

May 23, 1996