Sherpas rule Sagarmatha
17:42 p.m. EDT May 26, 2003
When Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa set out this past spring to set an Everest speed ascent record, little did anyone know he would not only break the late Babu Chirri Sherpa’s Everest speed ascent record of 16 hrs 56, but shatter it altogether with a time of 10 hrs 56 min and 46 sec – 6 hours faster than Babu’s seemingly unbeatable record.
Lhakpa Gelu had tried earlier on the 19th for the Everest ascent record, but was delayed by the route not being fixed. No sooner than a day or two later, coming from nowhere, Pemba Dorjie took the record at 12 hrs 45 min, beating Babu’s record by an astonishing 4 hours. When Babu’s record was set in 2000 everyone thought that it would never be touched, especially since he broke the previous record by over 3 hours. Imagine what everyone thought about Pemba’s new time. At over four hours faster than Babu’s record, Pemba’s feat was likened to Roger Bannister’s sub 4-minute mile that had shocked the world in the 50’s - or so everyone thought.
Shy and reserved, Lhakpa bided his time and named May 25th as the day. Then late evening last night, the news came – 10 hrs and 56 min. How could anyone ever have though back in 1998 when Kaji Sherpa set the record at 20 hrs 24 min, that it would almost be chopped in half less than 7 years later.
When Pemba Dorjee broke Babu’s record days ago, by an astonishing 4 hours it was just like Roger Bannister when he ran a sub 4-minute mile. The impossible was made possible and Lhakpa Gelu followed suit with an even better time.
With two back to back speed ascent records, the youngest ascent ever, the 13th summit by Apa Sherpa and a female’s first third consecutive, the Sherpas have stolen the Everest show this year in the true spirit of human achievement. The media has shown their spotlight on Hillary and Western climbers as usual. Hillary was knighted but Tenzing was not. 50 years after the first ascent, Everest 2003 is however once again the year of the Sherpas.
An Everest speed ascent history
Oct 5, 1990, Marc Batard (no O2): 22 hrs 29 min
Oct 17, 1998, Kaji Sherpa (with O2): 20 hrs 24 min
May 21, 2000, Babu Chiri Sherpa (with O2): 16 hrs 56 min
May 22, 2003, Pemba Dorjie Sherpa (with O2): 12 hrs and 45 min
May 25, 2003, Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa (with O2): 10 hrs 56 min
Lhakpa Gelu has now summited Everest 10 times
Lhakpa Sherpa checking the time – image courtesy of BaseCampMD.com