It's a puzzling fact that among Sherpas, inarguably the best single group of climbers in the world, none has yet conquered the Seven Summits—the highest point on all seven continents. Alpine Ascents guide and Nepali native Lakpa Rita Sherpa hopes to change that: On Feb. 7, the 11-time Everest summiteer will depart for Kilimanjaro, his final summit. He agreed to answer a few burning questions for BACKPACKER before tackling Africa's rooftop.
BACKPACKER: When and how did you get the idea to be the first Sherpa to climb all seven summits?
Lakpa Rita Sherpa: I got the first idea when I immigrated to the U.S. in 2000. Before that, I was guiding in Nepal--I didn't even know the meaning of 'Seven Summits.' But I've been guiding pretty much all over the world, and so I decided it could be a good thing for me and the Sherpa community if I could do it.
BP: With Sherpas being so involved in climbing, you'd think someone would've already climbed them. Why hasn't it happened yet?
LRS: I think the most difficult part is that economically, the climbing sport is very expensive--completing the Seven Summits is very expensive. Lots of Sherpa people don't have enough money to pay for it. Even in Nepal, it's hard to find a climbing sponsor. But I guided on Everest, Aconcagua, McKinley, and Vinson, and Alpine Ascents paid for my expenses on Elbrus. I am lucky.
BP: What was the toughest summit so far?
LRS: I think Everest is the hardest, since it is the tallest. After that McKinley would be hardest.
BP: Which was your favorite?
LRS: One of my favorites was Vinson. Mostly because it is in one of the world's very remote places. Not many people climb there. It's completely different than other places.
BP: Kilimanjaro's generally considered easier than most mountains you climb. Do you foresee any pitfalls or difficulties?
LRS: I'm not sure—I haven't been there. A lot of people will say that it's easy. I know getting there is part of the hard part. I've been a professional guide, but I'll have a local guide, so it could be easier. We will also have local porters so I don't have to carry anything. That makes it easier, I guess.
BP: Once you complete the Seven Summits, what'll be your new climbing goals?
LRS: I haven't thought about it yet. But I'll go back to guide on Everest in March. My schedule's pretty much set with Alpine Ascents--I'll go to Nepal twice a year. I'll also guide on Cho Oyo and Island Peak.
BP: As a Sherpa who's guided all over the world, what's your most important piece of gear?
LRS: I think my ice tools are my favorite.
BP: Where are your favorite mountains?
LRS: My hometown mountains--the Himalayas--are my favorite, but the Alaska mountain range (is) my second. The glaciers are huge, and when you're flying into the Denali glacier, it's very beautiful.
BP: You climbed Kosciuszko with your wife, Fur Dikee Sherpa, and you have three kids. Do you plan to teach them to climb?
LRS: I tried, but they don't have interest at all. I think because I'm gone too much, and they don't want to be like that. In the future, I don't know.
Make sure to check back with the Daily Dirt in a few weeks--we'll have a follow-up interview with Lakpa Rita Sherpa after his Kilimanjaro attempt.