Lhakpa Sherpa is a Nepalese mountaineer and the only female in the world who has climbed Mount Everest nine times. Although Pasang Lhamu Sherpa is the first Nepali woman who had made it to Everest’s top, she lost her life while coming down from the peak making Lhakpa the first Nepali female mountaineer who reached Everest and survived while descending from the mountain.
Today, Lhakpa Sherpa is a US citizen who works at Whole Foods, where she washes dishes and makes minimum wage to provide for her two daughters.
Lhakpa Sherpa strives to make history soon by climbing Mount Everest for the tenth time. She was planning to make her tenth expedition in May 2020 but could not do so due to lack of funding and the Covid-19 situation. She also owns a guiding business called “Cloudscape Climbing.”
Lhakpa Sherpa Early Life
Lhakpa Sherpa was born in 1973 in a remote village in Balakharka, which is situated in the Makalu region of Nepal. She grew up in a large family with eleven siblings, which includes seven sisters and four brothers.
During her earlier years, her parents used to own 25 yaks, through which they used to sell milk and butter to the villager and trekkers. Lhakpa’s family also owns several tea shops to date at Mount Makalu’s base to earn their livelihood.
Lhakpa never pursued education when she was young, as, during those days, people did not send a girl child to school. However, being a middle child, she was quite a tomboy among her other seven sisters.
Since she is illiterate, her only option was to be involved in the trekking and climbing business to earn a living. So, Lhakpa was already carrying loads for an outfitting company when she was just 15 years old.
In the middle of her porter career, her uncle also hired her as a kitchen boy for expeditions in Makalu. The title kitchen boy applies to females who help cook and do dishes in base camps.
However, Lhakpa being a tomboy, switched to carrying loads, sleeping bags, and ferrying tents, as she was relatively stronger than other females and knew her way up the base camps’ trails. She used to carry loads that were between 25 and 50 pounds while walking on ice.
Lakhpa eventually moved on from working as a porter to climbing mountains. But before she could fully climb Mount Everest, she first practiced her mountaineering skills in Mount Mera and Yala, which are 6,000-meter peaks that are famously known to be a steppingstone to the 8,000-meter mountain like Everest.
So, after working for 12 years as a porter, Lhakpa Sherpa finally summitted Mount Everest for the first time in 2000 and made history by being the first Nepali woman to have summited Everest and survived.
Lhakpa Sherpa Family and Relationships
Apart from her, two of Lhakpa’s siblings are also working in the mountaineering business. In 2003, she submitted Mt. Everest with her fifteen-year-old sister, Mingma Kippa Sherpa, and her brother Mingma Gelu Sherpa.
After completing their expedition, her sister Mingma became the youngest Nepali female to have summitted the peak. Furthermore, the Guinness Book of World Records also recognized Lhakpa and her siblings for being the first group of siblings to have conquered Mount Everest.
After his first climb in 2003, Lhakpa’s brother has climbed Mount Everest eight times and is also the Managing Director of the Seven Summits Adventure Pvt Ltd
Today, few of Lhakpa’s other siblings also live in foreign countries. She has three sisters who live in Florida, New York, Paris, and one brother based in Hartford, U.S.
Lhakpa has one son named Nima Sherpa, who she conceived through a short relationship in the late 1990s while living in Kathmandu. She had met her late ex-husband, George Dijmarescu, a Romanian-American mountaineer, around 2000 after successfully submitting Everest for the first time. The two had hit it off quite well at their first meet and were married after two years.
Lhakpa shares two daughters named Sunni and Shiny with George Dijamarescu. The pair were married for 12 years and has successfully summited Everest several times before ending their relationship in 2015.
Lhakpa Sherpa Mountain Expeditions
After gaining some confidence from her successful climbs in Mount Mera and Mount Yala, Lhakpa Sherpa had written a letter to the prime minister’s office in Nepal appealing to the government and dozens of corporate sponsors to fund an all-Sherpa women’s expedition for her first climb.
Lhakpa had completed her first climb through The Nepali Women Millennium Everest Expedition, with four other women who hailed from the Khumbu region. To be fit for her expedition, she had trained around Langtang and Manang regions for ice climbing.
Although Lhakpa had set out for the expedition with a team, a close source stated that she was the odd one out in the group as she was the only person from the Makulu region in the group. Such fact had caused quite a competition between the four girls and Lhakpa.
In an interview, Lhakpa had revealed that she had to race one of her team members to Everest’s peak after reaching Camp IV, at the South Col, at 26,000 feet. Luckily due to her determination and strength, she made it first to the peak at 6 a.m. on May 18, 2000. After spending a few minutes at the top of the mountain, she was flown by helicopter to her home in Makalu to celebrate her victory.
After making history, Lhakpa climbed the peak for the second time with her ex-husband George Dijmarescu in 2001. Later, Lhakpa revealed that she had made her second visit to the mountain eight months after giving birth to her first daughter.
Although Lhakpa did not set out for any expedition in 2002, she joined her brother and her sister for her third expedition in 2003.
Lhakpa continued to summit Everest with her husband for three more years, from 2004 to 2006. However, after her sixth expedition in 2006, Sherpa completely stopped mountaineering for eight years.
But she returned for her seventh expedition in 2015, which was also the year she divorced her husband. During that year, although Lhakpa had made it to the base camp through the Tibet side, she had to turn back due to the earthquake in the Himalayas, which had triggered an avalanche that had killed at least twenty-two people.
Although 2015 was not her lucky year, Lhakpa stayed determined and continued to summit Everest from 2016 to 2018. She had made her ninth summit through the Tibetan side, and Alex Abramov had led her team.
It is not an unknown fact that climbing Everest is quite expensive. Still, Lhakpa has made her expedition possible mainly due to few sponsorships through Nepali family connections and minuscule gear sponsors that are incomparable from her experience in the mountain.
Furthermore, she was scheduled for her tenth summit in May 2020 but sadly, she had to cancel her plans due to lack of funding and the restrictions caused by Covid-19.
Apart from climbing Mount Everest, Lhakpa had also set out for an expedition to climb K2 in 2010. However, she had to turn back from the base camp due to bad weather.
In 2004, while Lhakpa was climbing Everest, she had few altercations with her husband, leading him to punch her in the head. During that time, the expedition, which was named the ‘Connecticut Expedition,’ was organized by George himself. Lhakpa was co-leading the team with Trinity College field hockey and lacrosse coach Anne Parmenter.
The incident had happened in full view of their team members, and later Lhakpa was taken to the kitchen tent for treatment. A photograph of people taking Lhakpa’s limp body was published by Michel Kodas in The Hartford Courant.
According to Lhakpa, her relationship with her husband had deteriorated after the birth of her two daughters. She revealed that George had also started hitting her after she had children. In court, Lhakpa testified that the 2004 incident had happened after she had protested to her husband that he was not treating the people they had walked with nicely.
On the other hand, Dijmarescu denied the accusations and stated that he was helping a Mexican climber suffering from severe frostbite inside a tent during the incident. He added that Lhakpa had stormed inside the tent while alleging that he was having an affair with the Mexican man. He said that she pelted them with rocks, which then led him to push her out of the tent as an act of self-defense.
The pair also had a sole custody battle for their two daughters, where George had claimed Lhakpa is not fit to take care of their children because she cannot read or write. However, Lhakpa had won her two daughter’s sole custody and had finalized her divorce with George in 2015 after being in an abusive marriage with him for 11 years.
Lhakpa Sherpa is undoubtedly a significant influencer who does not receive the credit she deserves. Today, despite being a successful mountaineer, she works in places like Whole Foods and 7 Eleven, which only pays her minimum wage. She stated that she wants to work hard to give a better life to her daughters.
Regardless of her hardships, she has not given up yet and hopes to make her tenth ascent to Everest soon.