Sad news out of Kathmandu today, where it has been announced that mountaineering legend Ang Rita Sherpa has passed away. According to the Kathmandu News, he had been suffering from brain and liver problems in recent months and has succumbed to those ailments. He was 72 years old at the time of his passing.
Known as a strong and experienced high altitude climber, Ang Rita left his mark on the mountaineering scene, not only in Nepal, but across the globe. Over the course of his career, he summited Everest ten times without the use of bottled oxygen—an impressive record that seems unlikely to ever be broken. He was also an early practitioner of climbing without supplemental O’s, notching his first big climbs in the Himalaya back in the early 80s, including his first summit of the world’s highest peak in 1983. In 1987, he completed the first winter ascent of the mountain without the use of oxygen as well.
The Himalayan News reports that Ang Rita passed away this morning at his home in Jorpati. Dubbed “the snow leopard” for his strength and agility at altitude, he served as an inspiration of generations of Nepali climbers who have followed in his footsteps. He is survived by two sons and a daughter.
Anyone who has followed the Himalayan climbing scene has no doubt heard of Ang Rita Sherpa. He was a pioneer in not just climbing without oxygen, but helping to open Everest and Nepal’s other major peaks to western climbers. He was a mentor and an important role model for many of the top Nepali climbers today, who are no doubt mourning his loss along with his family.
When you consider the fact that less than a dozen people summited Everest last year without using bottled oxygen, you realize how rare that feat remains even in the 21st century. Back in the 1980s, when Ang Rita was breaking new ground in expedition climbing, his ability to function at altitude without supplemental oxygen was almost supernatural. His leadership and guidance will be missed.
Condolences to Ang Rita’s friends and family.