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Kami Rita bids for record 22nd ascent of Everest

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

Mar 27, 2018-Kami Rita Sherpa will soon make an attempt to set a new world record by climbing Everest for the 22nd time.

The 48-year-old mountaineer is planning to scale the world’s tallest peak this climbing season.

The Everest season begins next month when hordes of climbers will start travelling to the Khumbu valley for acclimatization. The actual climbing starts from the second week of May.

If Sherpa succeeds in this endeavour, he will break the record of 21 ascents of Everest set by Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi Sherpa, both of whom have announced retirement.

 

According to Kami Rita, he will be leaving for Everest on April 1. “If everything goes according to plan, we will make the final summit push by May 29,” he said. Kami made his first ascent of Everest in 1994 when he was 24 years old. One of his

21 Everest ascents was made from the Chinese side in 2016.

While Phurba Tashi has given up his plan to climb Everest again due to pressure from his family as climbing involves a lot of risk, Kami Rita has the support of his family, relatives and friends. “I made up my mind last year not to continue, but my father encouraged me,” he said. “I will not give up climbing,” he said. “I have set a goal to climb Everest up to 25 times.”

Climbing Everest is not easy. But it is gradually becoming easier due to new technology and climbing gear. “Obviously, there is a world class weather and climate forecast technology. During the climbing season, the world’s best weathermen are stationed at Everest Base Camp. We are informed about wind and snowfall every second,” he said. During the mid-1990s, it used to be a big challenge to climb Everest. Despite the technology, some extreme weather conditions which trigger avalanches are unpredictable.

Innovation in climbing gear has made Everest ascents easier. For example, the weight of climbing boots has been reduced by 50 percent to almost 5 kg climb, which has increased climbing performance. Meanwhile, another change in the mountaineering industry is experienced guides. “High altitude guides need to take an advanced climbing course,” said Kami Rita.

Everest economy

The income generated by Everest is a huge part of Nepal’s tourism economy. Everest permits alone bring in an estimated $4 million annually, including national park fees. Besides, hotels, restaurants, airlines, tour operators, guides and porters are the key beneficiaries.

The 25 minute Kathmandu-Lukla flight is probably the world’s most expensive air journey. A one-way ticket costs $177 for tourists. For Nepalis, the airfare is Rs6,630. The Khumbu region is also a very expensive destination. A small pot of milk tea costs Rs500 while a boiled egg will set you back more than Rs100. High freight charges make goods expensive as everything has to be flown in. The Everest climbing period last for at least one and a half months, and Everest aspirants spend at least a week in Kathmandu. Another two weeks of trekking brings them to base camp. The rest of the time is spent on acclimatization and making the summit push.  

Climbers pay between $50,000 and $90,000 to climb Everest. “This is a non-refundable fee,” said Kami Rita. “An experienced climbing guide makes as much as $12,000 during this 45-day Everest climbing window,” he said.

A normal or beginner guide earns $7,000 per season, while high-altitude porters earn up to $4,000 per season. The income of a porter is five times greater than the average income of Nepalis. “Where there is a risk, there is money,” he said.

How is Everest climbed?

The climbing time from Everest Base Camp (5,364 metres) to Camp I (5,943 metres) is 6 hours. The Khumbu Icefall, the most treacherous part of the route, lies between these two camps.

Most of the climbers try to cross the Khumbu Icefall during the very early morning before sunrise when it is less susceptible to movement. As sunlight warms up the ice, the chances of crevasses opening or blocks falling become much greater.

It takes 4 hours to reach Camp II (6,400 metres) from Camp I, the most exciting and easiest part of the route. From Camp II to Camp III (7,162 metres), the average walking time is 7 hours, while from Camp III to IV (8,000 metres) or South Col, the average walking time is 9 hours.

“Camp III to IV is the crucial stretch that determines a climber’s ability—whether he or she can climb to the summit or not,” said Kami Rita. “If the climber fails to reach Camp IV within 9 hours, we generally don’t take them up to the top due to the risk of being slowed down,” he said.

At Camp IV, the ultimate thrill begins as it’s the last point from where the Everest push starts. It takes 10 hours to reach the summit (8,848 metres) from Camp IV. Normally, the summit push begins at 11 pm or midnight so they can reach the summit and begin their descent during the day.

High winds are a common afternoon feature on Everest, so climbers need to descend before noon. The average return time from the summit to Camp IV is 4 hours.

“It takes seven days to complete an Everest mission from base camp,” he said. For a climber, eight bottles of oxygen are required while high-altitude climbers use four bottles.

Everest future

Kami Rita followed in his father’s footsteps and became an Everest climber. “My father was not educated, and I didn’t attend school due to our weak financial position. So I became a climbing guide,” said Kami Rita. But things are not going to be the same for the third generation.

“I know what Everest is like. I don’t want my children to take the risk,” he said. “Like many Sherpas, I want my children to get a good education. After 15-20 years, there will be fewer Sherpas following this occupation.” The government has done nothing for the climbing community; and one day, it will realize what the Sherpas mean to Nepal’s tourism and economy, he added.

(Photos: Pasang Tenzing Sherpa)

Published: 27-03-2018 08:56

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