Kami Rita: ‘Everest Man’ With Iron Lungs

Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, stands as a symbol of nature’s grandeur and human ambition. The mountain is known as Sagarmatha in Nepal and as Chomolungma in Tibet, both names reflecting the reverence with local cultures regarding this colossal peak. The English name “Everest” was bestowed in 1865 by the Royal Geographical Society in honour of Sir George Everest, a British Surveyor-General of India. The first recorded attempt to scale Everest was made in 1921. However, it was on 29 May 1953 that New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa of Nepal created history by vanquishing Everest. Everest since then has been ever enduring and ever intriguing and continues to challenge those who dare to ascend its heights.

On 22 May 2024, Kami Rita Sherpa created a world record by summiting Mount Everest for the 30th time. He said he is happy for the record but he is happier that his climbs help Nepal get immense recognition in the world. Popularly known as ‘Everest Man’, Kami made his first climb in May 1994 and since then he has not looked back. At a ripe age of 54 he still does not feel tired of climbing the highest peak in the world and has no intention to retire soon.

His record-breaking 30th ascent came just within 10 days of his 29th climb of Mt Everest, etching his name in mountaineering history for times to come. Kami Rita is a man with iron lungs and nerves of steel who has navigated the perilous Khumbu Icefall, endured treacherous weather conditions of the higher camps, and faced the challenges of walking the route again and again for 30 times till the top. As they say view from top is always great, he must be a highly satisfied man after his 30th climb of Sagarmatha bringing the glory and guts of Sherpa clan on the global platform. Kami Rita currently holds the record for most 8000-meter summits, with total of 40. His brother Lakpa Rita, also a guide, scaled Everest 17 times.

During this period two Indian women also created records by successfully summiting the Mt Everest. Jyoti Ratre from Bhopal, became the oldest Indian woman at an age of 55 years to vanquish Everest on 19 May 24. She started mountain climbing training at an age of 48 years and within this short period triumphed over the highest peaks of Mt Kilimanjaro of Africa, Mt Elbrus of Europe, and Mt Aconcagua of South America. Just a day after, on 20 May 24, Kaamya Karthikeyan became the youngest Indian mountaineer at an age of 16 years, to summit the world’s highest peak from the Nepalese side. She also becomes the second youngest girl in the world to achieve this feat. The best part is that her father Commodore S Karthikeyan from the Indian Navy accompanied Kaamya on her journey to the peak. Another record was smashed when on 23 May 24, Nepali climber Phunjo Lama reached the top in 14 hours and 31 minutes cutting down on her own record of fastest ascent of Everest by a woman, by more than 11 hours. All this is happening on or around Buddha Poornima, which is very sacred festival for Buddhists world over.

Since first successful climb in May 1953, more than 7000 people have scaled Everest, but also 335 climbers have lost their lives while doing so. As part of a ritual, the summiteers pray at Tengboche Gompa at Base Camp to get blessings of mountain God for safe passage to the top. Tengboche Gompa in the Khumbu region of Eastern Nepal, is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Sherpa community. This monastery situated at a height of 12,687 ft, built in 1916 by Lama Gulu, is considered as the gateway to Mt Everest. It is one of the most prominent centres for Sherpa Culture.

Sherpas are often considered one of the toughest clans in the world due to their extraordinary physical adaptations to the harsh environments in which they live and work. Their bodies are naturally adapted to low oxygen levels. They also have a deep-rooted cultural and spiritual connection to the mountains, which fosters a strong sense of community and resilience. Sherpas are renowned for their mountaineering skills, often working as guides for climbers attempting to summit peaks like Mt Everest. Their expertise, combined with their physical and psychological toughness, makes them indispensable in high-altitude expeditions.

Prayers are a must at Tengboche Gompa before start of an expedition

The Sherpa people descend from historically nomadic progenitors who first settled in the Khumbu and Solu regions of the Himalayan range in the Tibetan plateau. A 2010 study identified more than 30 genetic factors that make Tibetan bodies well suited for high altitudes, including EPAS1, referred to as the “super-athlete gene” that regulates the body’s production of haemoglobin allowing for greater efficiency in the use of oxygen. Sherpa Pemba Dorje has got the record of fastest climb to the Everest from Base Camp in total time of eight hours and 10 minutes established on 21 May 2004. On 20 May 2011, Mingma Sherpa became the first Nepali and the first South Asian to scale all 14 of the world’s highest mountains. In the process, Mingma set a new world record – he became the first mountaineer to climb all 14 peaks on his first attempt. Lhakpa Sherpa currently holds the record for maximum climbs of Everest by a female mountaineer. On 12 May 2022 she climbed Everest for the tenth time at an age of 49 years.

It is Sherpas like Kami Rita who have showcased the extraordinary capabilities of their community. His journey from Thame village to world’s highest peak is a story of determination, dedication, and deep connection he shares with Mt Everest. As the world celebrates his milestone, Kami Rita stands as a true icon of human endeavour and the spirit of adventure. Kami Rita’s achievements also highlight the invaluable contributions of the Sherpa community to mountaineering. Sherpas have been the unsung heroes of Everest expeditions, providing critical support to climbers.

Today, Sherpas like Kami Rita face new challenges, including climate change, which affects climbing conditions and of course the commercial pressures of guiding an increasing number of amateur climbers on Everest. From Tenzing Norgay’s historic ascent to Kami Rita’s record-breaking climbs, the journey of Sherpas in mountaineering is marked by remarkable achievements and evolving roles. They have transformed from being background supporters to central figures in high-altitude climbing, continuously pushing the limits of human endurance and skill. As we move ahead, it is crucial to approach this iconic peak with respect and responsibility, ensuring that it remains a beacon of inspiration for generations to come.


Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhry was commissioned into Corps of Engineers in Dec 1983. After serving for nearly 40 years, he retired on 30 Sep 2023. He has taken part in sports of sailing and rowing at national level during his service. He also took keen interest in adventure activities and has done Para jumping, Para sailing, Micro-light flying and been a Deep-Sea diver.


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