The Sherpa people of Nepal have only seven first names, which are given for the days of the week. This is just one of the many factors that cause Westerners to overlook their monumental efforts in the Himalayas. But here’s one name to remember: Lakpa (Wednesday) Rita, a 47-year-old senior guide from Alpine Ascents International. During every major Everest event of the past 20 years—including the 1996 disaster, when he saved a not-quite-dead Beck Weathers by helping him down from the South Col—Lakpa Rita has been aiding and rescuing the injured and incompetent alike.
“He doesn’t like to talk much about rescues,” says Everest guide Garrett Madison, who was with Lakpa on Everest last season. “He’s very quiet about his accomplishments.”
“I remember a rescue that I got a lot of recognition for in 2007, when we found a semiconscious Nepali woman at 27,300 feet,” says longtime Everest guide and Outside correspondent Dave Hahn. “We started dragging this woman down the hill, and Lakpa Rita came up from the South Col. He jumped in and basically left me struggling to keep up. There are probably a lot of other rescues that I don’t even know about.”
Last September, on 26,781-foot Manaslu in the Nepalese Himalayas, a massive avalanche wiped out Camp III, killing 11 climbers. Lakpa, who has summited the highest peaks on all seven continents, was the first person out of his tent in Camp II, rushing to administer first aid to survivors, search for bodies in the avalanche debris, and help coordinate the evacuation of nearly 20 wounded climbers. As usual he faded into the background in the ensuing media frenzy, leaving the sound bites to Western climbers. He did not respond to interview requests.