Living legend summits Everest 18th time to save the planet (Lead)

May 22nd, 2008 - 4:40 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 22 (IANS) A legendary mountaineer who holds the record for the maximum number of conquests of Mt Everest risked his life and broke his own record Thursday to deliver a warning worldwide and save the planet. Forty-eight-year-old Apa Sherpa stood on top of the 8,848m peak early Thursday morning , notching an incredible 18 successful summits and adding a new chapter to Everest annals, as part of an expedition to study effects of global warming on the Himalayan glaciers.

Apa, considered a mascot by mountaineering expeditions because of his unbelievable safety record, had not planned to risk his life again this year and have a stab at the mountain that made him a living legend.

Two years ago, he had shifted to Utah in the US in a bid to provide education to his three children and ensure a secure future for them.

“Apa had no plans to make an 18th attempt this year until he heard about the Eco-Everest Expedition,” said Ang Tshering Sherpa, chief of Nepal Mountaineering Association, the key agency for promoting mountain tourism in Nepal.

The Eco-Everest Expedition headed by his son Dawa Steven Sherpa, an Everester himself, plans to study the effect of global warming on the glaciers of the Himalayas and to educate the people of the Himalayan highlands about the dangers of flooding due to increasing melt water.

“Apa reached the summit of Mt. Everest for a record 18th time at 5:45 a.m. on May 22,” Ang Tshering Sherpa said.

The slim, soft-spoken and unassuming Apa had been holding the record for maximum Everest summits since 1999, when he scaled the peak for the 10th time.

His first ascent as a hired porter and guide was May, 1990 when he was with a New Zealand team headed by another climbing icon, Rob Hall. His last ascent was 2007, when he was part of a Super Sherpa expedition that sought to discover the physical and mental qualities in the hardy Sherpa community that contributed to their success as mountaineers.

Ironically, while Everest conquerors from the west made their names as well as fortunes with the ascents, Apa remained an impoverished hero, struggling to make both ends meet.

In 2006, he bid adieu to Nepal and migrated to the US, where he lives now with his wife and children.

“Summiting Mt Everest is not glamorous,” the legend told IANS 2003, when Nepal celebrated the golden jubilee of the first ascent of the peak 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa.

“It is a job to me, like any other job.

“I do it to ensure a protected future for my children.”

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