A West Hartford woman, Lhakpa Sherpa, 44, reached the summit of Mount Everest on Wednesday for a record ninth time, shattering the record for women she set last year.
A total of 94 climbers reached the summit Wednesday because of good weather conditions.
The route to the summit was opened up by a team of Sherpa guides earlier this week.
The native of Nepal holds the world record for summits of Everest by a woman and returned this month for what has become an annual expedition to the top of the world.
“My body knows that I have already been this high. It’s like a computer. It figures it out very quickly. My body knows the high altitude. It remembers.”
Rajeev Shrestha of the Seven Summit Adventure agency in Kathmandu said he received a message from the base camp about the successful climb. She was making her way down to the advanced base camp, he said. She lives most of the year in the U.S. state of Connecticut and has a son and two daughters.
Lhakpa Sherpa is recognized by Guinness World Records and is well known in mountaineering circles, but she spends most of the year living a modest life in obscurity in Connecticut, where she moved with her now ex-husband, another well-known climber, in 2002.
She gets up most days at 6 a.m. to walk her two daughters, 16-year-old Sunny and 11-year-old Shiny, to school. Then, because she does not know how to drive, often walks the 2 miles to her job, where she washes dishes in the prepared foods section and takes out the garbage.
“You would never know she hiked Everest unless you knew her and talked to her about it,” says Dan Furtado, the manager who hired Lhakpa at Whole Foods. “She’s the most humble person I know, and her work ethic is astounding.”
Lhakpa says that she would have liked to be a doctor or an airplane pilot, but that as a girl growing up in the Sherpa ethnic community with her four brothers and seven sisters, she wasn’t allowed to attend school.
Without a formal education, she has taken jobs in Connecticut cleaning houses, as a clerk at a local convenience store and as a dishwasher to give her daughters and now-grown son a chance at a better life in the United States, she said.
“My rent is expensive here,” she says, “but this is where the best schools are.”
Lhakpa said she is used to overcoming adversity. Sherpa girls were discouraged from climbing, but she was a tomboy and would not be deterred from helping the men in her family, serving as a porter to bring gear to Everest base camps.
Becoming a climber was harder, she said, especially after the first Nepali woman to reach the summit, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, died on her way down the mountain in 1993.
Lhakpa Sherpa joined an expedition of five women in 2000 who convinced the government to give them a permit. She was the first Nepali woman to reach the summit and return alive.
The record for successful climbs to the top of Everest is 21, shared by three Sherpa men who worked as mountain guides. Two have retired from climbing, but the third, Kami Rita, told AP in Kathmandu recently he was heading to Everest to attempt his 22nd climb.
Anne Parmenter, a field hockey coach at Trinity College in Hartford, climbed with Lhakpa on an ill-fated Everest expedition in 2004. There were serious issues with that climb, including a physical confrontation between Lhakpa and her husband at the time that left Lhakpa unconscious.
Parmenter says it is impressive to see what Lhakpa has been able to overcome, both physically and mentally.
“She’s obviously been blessed with amazing physiology that allows her to live here, not train, and go back and adapt very quickly to that high-altitude environment,” she says. “She can do that, function and be really strong.”
Kami Rita also reached the summit on Wednesday morning with a team of foreign climbers and a fellow Sherpa guide and was already safely descending to a lower camp by the afternoon, said Gyanendra Shrestha, a government official stationed at the base camp.
The 48-year-old was among three men — all Nepalese Sherpa guides — who had tied the previous record of 21 successful ascents of the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak.
Before leaving for the mountain last month, Kami Rita told The Associated Press that he wanted to scale Everest at least 25 times.
Mountaineering has been his family tradition. His father was among the first professional guides after Nepal opened to foreign trekkers and mountaineers in 1950. His brother has scaled Everest 17 times. Most of his male relatives have reached the top least once.
Kami Rita first scaled Everest at age 24, and has made the trip almost every year since then. He has also climbed many of the region’s other high peaks, including K-2, Cho-Oyu, Manaslu and Lhotse. In the autumn, he guides clients to smaller peaks in Nepal.
Both of the other previous record holders are retired from climbing.
Apa, a 58-year-old guide who uses only one name, retired in 2011 and moved to Utah. Phurba Tashi, 47, retired from high-altitude climbing in 2013 but still works at Everest’s Base Camp helping organize expeditions.