When Lakpa Rita Sherpa
flies from Seattle on February 7th bound for Tanzania’s
Mount Kilimanjaro, he goes knowing he has the privilege
to do what no Sherpa has done before—climb the Seven
Summits—the highest peaks on every continent. The
43-year old man, from Shoreline, Washington, expects to
summit the 19,340-foot peak on February 13th. The
six-day climb will be the last and perhaps easiest of
the Seven Summits for the experienced mountain guide.
Leavenworth, Washington alpinist Joe Puryear will
accompany Lakpa Rita Sherpa.
“I have been thinking to complete the
Seven Summits for a long, long time,” said Lakpa Rita
Sherpa, who is a professional mountain guide for Alpine
Ascents International. “No Sherpa has had the
opportunity to do this, and I am lucky to have the
chance.” His effort to climb the Seven Summits over the
years has been supported by Sherpa Adventure Gear,
Alpine Ascents International, and Hafsa Al Ulama, a
client and the United Arab Emirate’s best-known woman
Lakpa Rita Sherpa never imagined climbing the Seven
Summits until he came to the United States in 2000.
“Before I immigrated here, I didn’t even know the
meaning of the Seven Summits,” he explained. The term
and challenge was popularized in the mid-1980s;
approximately 200 people are known to have stood atop
the world’s highest peaks.
Lakpa Rita Sherpa, who has been climbing since 1984,
knows many of those notable mountains intimately,
especially Mount Everest. He first climbed the world’s
tallest mountain in October 1990 and has since reached
its top eleven times, always working as a guide.
Nearly ten years would pass before he would ascend to
the top of Alaska’s Mount McKinley (Denali) in June
2000. Just fifteen days later, he stood atop the summit
Next, he traveled to South America’s Aconcagua in
Argentina for his first climb, in December 2001. He
spent six years there guiding aspiring summiteers to the
top of the 22,841-foot peak, and during that period,
reached the top 22 times.
January 2004 took Lakpa Rita Sherpa to Antarctica’s
Vinson Massif, where he guided two trips to the summit.
It’s a trip he knows is prohibitive for other Nepalese
climbers due to the sheer expense of reaching the
As a professional guide for Alpine Ascents International
he keeps a busy schedule of some twenty trips per year,
including Everest, the 8000’-meter Cho Oyu on the border
of Tibet and Nepal, Aconcagua and more than a dozen
trips in the Cascades. He is one of the few Sherpas
working as a full-time mountain guide around the world,
and he is considered the ‘Best Sirdar in the Khumbu’ for
his role in organizing the Sherpa teams that support
Himalayan expeditions. He is respected the world over
for his far-reaching expertise in the mountains, as well
as his charm and humility.
In 2008, Lakpa Rita Sherpa reached two summits: Mount
Elbrus in Russia and 7,310-foot Kosciuszko in Australia
– accompanied by his wife Fur Dikee Sherpa. “She didn’t
want me to go by myself,” he said, even though it is
only a “little hill.” It is the only time a family
member has climbed with Lakpa, although his three
Nepalese-born children, who joined their parents in the
United States in 2004, have been to the Everest base
camp with their father.
As for Kilimanjaro, which might be a walk in the park
for the seasoned mountain guide, Lakpa Rita Sherpa says
with a laugh, “It could be easy or maybe difficult. I
don’t know! I haven’t been there.”
He should know soon enough. And once he’s made his way
up the slopes of the storied peak, the special honor
will be shared with the Sherpa that are respected the
world over for their quiet contributions to
mountaineering and their unsung leadership to the top of
the world’s most challenging summits.
For Lakpa Rita Sherpa, it is the joy of climbing that he
thinks of first. “Nepalese people are happy to climb,”
said Lakpa Rita Sherpa. “A lot of people think we climb
just to make a living. But we climb for fun, too.”