By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU (Reuters) -A Nepali sherpa scaled Mount Everest for a record 27th time on Wednesday, beating his own record, a government official and his hiking company said.
Kami Rita Sherpa, 53, scaled the 8,849 metre (29,032-foot) mountain early in the morning along the traditional southeast ridge route, guiding a foreign climber.
“Yes, Kami Rita climbed Sagarmatha for the 27th time,” said Department of Tourism official Bigyan Koirala, referring to the mountain by its Nepali name.
Separately, Ishwari Paudel of the Himalayan Guides company said British climber Kenton Cool, 49, made his 17th ascent of the mountain on Wednesday, the most by any foreign climber. “Cool is now descending after guiding his own private client,” Paudel said.
Thaneswar Guragai, general manager of the Seven Summit Treks, for which Kami Rita works, said he got to the summit at 8.30 a.m. (0245 GMT) along with the foreign climber.
“We’re trying to get details. For now it’s 100% confirmed that Kami Rita scaled for the 27th time,” Guragai said.
Kami Rita, who refers to himself by his first names, scaled Everest for the first time in 1994 and has climbed it almost every year since then, except in 2014, 2015 and 2020, when climbing was halted for various reasons.
Garrett Madison of the U.S.-based Madison Mountaineering company, who has climbed Everest 12 times, five of them with Kami Rita, described him as a “very strong climber”.
“Very inspirational to see a local climber continue pushing the limits on Mount Everest,” Madison told Reuters by telephone from Everest’s base camp, where he is preparing for a 13th ascent.
Kami Rita’s company said in a statement he had “dedicated his life to mountaineering and has become synonymous with the world’s highest peak”.
Sherpas are known for their climbing skills and many make a living guiding foreign clients up Everest and other mountains.
May is the ideal time for trying to reach the top of Everest, with clear weather before the monsoon arrives from the south, bringing cloud and snow to the peaks and rain to the lowlands.
This year, Nepal has issued 478 permits, the most ever, for people to climb Everest compared with the previous record of 408 in 2021.
The Himalayan nation, which is heavily reliant on climbing, trekking and tourism for foreign exchange, has been criticised for allowing too many climbers, many of them inexperienced, to try for Everest’s summit.
Dangerous overcrowding can develop, especially at a bottleneck called the Hillary Step, just below the summit. In 2019, nine exhausted climbers died on Everest after queues built up of climbers going up and down.
Everest has been climbed more than 11,000 times, from both the Nepali and Tibetan sides, since it was first scaled in 1953, with many people going up multiple times.
More than 320 people have died on the mountain, hiking officials said.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Robert Birsel and Kim Coghill)