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Acclaimed mountain guide Lakpa Rita Sherpa confirmed his place in Sherpa and mountaineering history on February 13th when he stood atop Mount Kilimanjaro and became the first Sherpa to climb the Seven Summitsâ€”the highest peaks on every continent. Africa’s highest peak was the last of the summits for the 43-year old Sherpa man, who has been climbing since 1984 and first climbed Mount Everest in 1990. He was joined on the five-day journey to the top of the snow-capped 19,340-foot Kilimanjaro by Leavenworth, Washington alpinist Joe Puryear, who has documented the venture at www.climbafrica.blogspot.com. Sherpa Adventure Gear (www.sherpaadventuregear.com), a Renton, Washington manufacturer of apparel for mountain sports, sponsored the climb of Kilimanjaro.
The experienced mountain guide found Kilimanjaro easy compared to other high altitude ascents, but â€œextremely beautiful and interesting,â€ he said. â€œThe route we climbed was very convoluted with much back and forth and lots of up and down. However the descent was straight down.â€ He was surprised that â€œit was very, very crowded on the mountain,â€ noting he and Puryear passed over 200 people the morning they reached the summit. They arrived at dawn on February 13th after a four-hour climb from their final camp with weather that was very cold but clear. To celebrate at the summit, “we danced and sang a traditional song with our local partners,” wrote Lakpa Rita Sherpa.
Lakpa Rita Sherpa learned the meaning of the Seven Summitsâ€”and that he might be able to climb themâ€”after immigrating to the United States in 2000. At that time, he already had multiple ascents of Mount Everest, and that year, he climbed Alaska’s Mount McKinley twice. In the following years, as a guide for Alpine Ascents International (www.alpineascents.com), Lakpa Rita Sherpa reached the summit of Argentina’s Aconcagua 22 times, and twice to the top of Antarctica’s Vinson Massif. In 2008, Australia’s Kosciuszko and Russia’s Mount Elbrus beckoned; he added them to his accomplishments. It is believed that approximately 200 people have climbed the Seven Summits.
As one of the few Sherpa who works internationally as a professional mountain guide, Lakpa Rita Sherpa leads climbers on approximately twenty trips per year, including on Mount Everest, Aconcagua and in the North Cascades of Washington state. His highly regarded mountain expertise and his skills organizing Himalayan expeditions have built the career that enabled him to travel the world, and therefore, has given him the rare privilege of climbing the Seven Summits.
With the culmination of his bid for the Seven Summits, Lakpa Rita Sherpa shares the honor with fellow Sherpa people who are so respected for their quiet contribution helping others to the top of the highest peaks of the world. He knows it takes many people to help one person to stand upon a summit. Of his achievement, he said, â€œI think they are very proud.â€
About Sherpa Adventure Gear
Sherpa Adventure Gear was founded in 2003 by Tashi Sherpa, who was inspired to start the company when he discovered that his uncle was one of the Sherpa on Sir Edmund Hilary’s celebrated first-ever expedition to the top of Mount Everest in 1953. Sherpa Adventure Gearâ€”which manufacturers apparel and equipment for mountain adventuresâ€”honors the unsung Sherpa heroes who make high altitude Himalayan climbs possible by carrying loads and laying ropes on treacherous slopes. Those very climbers test and help design Sherpa Adventure Gear products, most of which are produced in Nepal, where the company employs local Sherpas and plans to open a retail store in spring 2009. The Renton, Washington-based company gives back to the largely impoverished Sherpa community by donating a portion of every sale to organizations that benefit their future, such as the Sherpa Education Fund. Additionally, Sherpa athlete-ambassadors are supported with a royalty on sales to help support their families’ futures.