Ang Rita Sherpa: The Snow Leopard of Nepal

Ang Rita Sherpa, is best known for a series of world record breaking ascents of Mount Everest. From a young age, he demonstrated an unyielding spirit and an unwavering passion for the mountains. Which led him to embark on 10 successful trips to the summit of Everest. All without supplemental oxygen, making him one of the most famous climbers to summit Everest.

This blog recounts the life of Ang Rita Sherpa and his world record setting ascents to Everest.

Ang Rita Sherpa’s Life:

Ang Rita Sherpa Climbing on Mount Everest

Ang Rita Sherpa achievements include ascending Mount Everest ten times between 1983 and 1996, without relying on supplemental oxygen. Notably, his sixth ascent earned him the world record for the highest number of successful climbs of Mount Everest. A record he later surpassed all the way to a total of ten ascents.

Although climbers have surpassed his total number of summits (Kami Rita Sherpa). He still holds the record for the most ascents without supplemental oxygen. Moreover, Ang Rita Sherpa was the pioneering individual to conquer Mount Everest during the winter season. Once again without relying on supplemental oxygen, a feat yet to be replicated.

In admiration of his skills and accomplishments during his Everest expeditions, his peers fondly referred to him as the “Snow Leopard.” Sadly, he passed away on 21st September 2020, leaving behind a lasting legacy in the world of mountaineering.

Early Life of Ang Sherpa:

Born on 27th July 1948 in Thame, Solukhumbu, Sherpa’s family was involved in yak rearing. During his childhood, he dedicated his time to tending to the yaks and working as a porter on trading journeys spanning the Himalayas and Tibet.

At the age of 15, he ventured into the world of mountaineering, taking on the role of a porter. Despite lacking any formal education or mountaineering training, he pursued his passion for the mountains and to make a living for his family, which gradually helped him carve a path to greatness.

Mountaineering Career of The Snow Leopard of Nepal:

Ang Rita Sherpa on Everest

Ang Rita’s mountaineering journey began at the age of 20. At 20 he achieved his first successful climb to Mount Cho Oyu. It marked the beginning of an extraordinary career, during which he summited numerous peaks, including renowned mountains like Mount Everest, K2, Cho Oyu, Lhotse, Manaslu, Annapurna, and Dhaulagiri – which he did multiple times and without relying on supplemental oxygen. In fact, it is believed that he reached the summits of eight-thousanders a remarkable 18 times!

In 1983, Sherpa made his initial ascent of Mount Everest, and over the next 13 years, he reached the summit of Everest nine more times. Eight out of his ten Everest summits were achieved via the Southeast ridge route. The last of these summits occurred a mere 12 days after the tragic 1996 Everest disaster. That year, he fell ill, and King Birendra, through Crown Prince Dipendra, expressed the wish that Ang Rita retire from mountaineering due to his deteriorating health. Following this visit, Sherpa heeded the advice and stopped pursuing mountaineering.

Ang Rita’s High Altitude Accomplishments

One of Sherpa’s main achievements was being the first person to conquer Everest in winter without supplemental oxygen, a feat he accomplished in 1987 – which still has not been broken. Additionally, he holds the distinction of being the first person to climb Everest an astonishing 10 times. His mountaineering achievements were widely recognized, and he was officially acknowledged by Guinness World Records in 2017 as the sole individual to have achieved the feat of climbing Mount Everest ten times without the use of bottled oxygen.

Regarded by his peers as the most skilled and formidable Sherpa guide of his time, Sherpa demonstrated his resilience and resourcefulness on multiple occasions. In one instance, he signed up as a low-altitude porter for an expedition to Dhaulagiri but ended up carrying equipment to Dhaulagiri-III camp, accomplishing the task barefoot and without any climbing gear.

Again, in April 1985, he led a Norwegian team to the summit of Mount Everest despite facing a severe blizzard. During his historic 1987 winter ascent, he assisted a South Korean team and, when separated from the group one night, he and another climber kept themselves warm and alive through continuous aerobic exercises. In 1990, he was a guide for the Nepali Army expedition to Everest. Which saw only four members, including himself, successfully reach the summit out of almost 50 who started the trek.

Ang Rita Sherpa’s Mount Everest ascents:

The table below shows the dates Ang Sherpa summited Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. Additionally, it shows the world records that he owned at the time of the ascent:

DateEverest Record
7 May 1983
15 October 1984
29 April 1985
22 December 1987First person to climb Mount Everest in winter without supplementary oxygen
14 October 1988
23 April 1990Highest number of successful ascents of Mount EverestHighest number of successful ascents of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen
15 May 1992Highest number of successful ascents of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen
16 May 1993Highest number of successful ascents of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen
13 May 1995Highest number of successful ascents of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen
23 May 1996Highest number of successful ascents of Mount Everest (10)Highest number of successful ascents of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen
Dates of Ang Rita Sherpa’s world record ascents on Everest

Guinness World Records By Ang Rita Sherpa:

The Snow Leopard of Nepal, Ang Rita Sherpa
The Snow Leopard of Nepal with his Guinness World Records

In 2017, Ang Rita was bestowed with the prestigious Guinness World Records title. They recognized him as the first person ever to conquer Mount Everest 10 times without the use of bottled oxygen. This remarkable record stands unbeaten to this day. Additionally, in 1987, he achieved another groundbreaking feat by completing the first ascent of the mountain without the aid of supplementary oxygen.

His unparalleled achievements earned him the well-deserved nickname “Snow Leopard,” aptly symbolizing his mastery in the world of climbing. At the age of twenty, he successfully scaled Mount Cho Oyu. From then on, he climbed many of the other 8000ers in the region. What sets his achievements apart is the fact that he accomplished all these climbs without relying on supplemental oxygen.

Ang Rita Sherpa’s Death:

In 1996, Sherpa made the difficult decision to retire from mountaineering when he fell ill with a liver ailment, which plagued him for the remainder of his life. Thanks in part to the request by King Berendra and his son Prince Dipendra, for him to prioritize his health over climbing.

Additionally, he suffered a stroke around 2015-16 and tragically, on 21st September 2020, at the age of 72, Sherpa passed away suddenly at his daughter’s residence in Kathmandu. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli took to Twitter to express his heartfelt condolences. Acknowledging that Sherpa’s remarkable achievements would be forever remembered.

Sherpa’s body was placed in a gompa in Kathmandu until the day of his funeral on 23rd September. The funeral was held with national honors at Teku Dobhan. The sacred confluence of the Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers in Kathmandu, and in accordance with Buddhist customs. Minister of Tourism and Culture, Yogesh Bhattarai, draped his body with the national flag. Followed by a gun salute by a squad from the Nepal Armed Police Force.

It was a solemn occasion to bid farewell to the legendary mountaineer. The Snow Leopard of Nepal had touched the lives and hearts of climbers from around the world.

Ang Rita Sherpa: The Snow Leopard of Nepal

Ang Rita Sherpa’s profound impact on mountaineering history resonates long after his passing. His legendary status as the ‘Snow Leopard of Nepal’ was well-earned through ten successful ascents of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. A feat that earned him the distinguished Guinness World Records title.

As the first person to reach Everest’s summit in winter without oxygen, and with his ascents of the other tallest mountains in the world, his legacy lives on. Ang Rita Sherpa’s story serves as an enduring reminder that, with determination and passion, the mountains can be conquered..

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