Lhakpa Sherpa, a Nepali woman who works as a housekeeper in Hartford, Connecticut, is arguably the most successful female climber on Mount Everest.
Sherpa, 40, has climbed Mount Everest six times and is attempting to ascend the mountain for her seventh. She has summited Everest more times than any other woman in the world and yet remains relatively unknown.
According to Outside Online, Sherpa is illiterate and doesn’t drive. She juggles two jobs as a housekeeper for an in-home health care service and as a cashier at a local 7-Eleven. Her combined income from the job equates to $400 a week.
Sherpa, the middle child of 11 siblings, grew up in Balkaharka, a village in the Makalu region of the Nepalese Himalayas that is located 13,000 feet above sea level. She entered the family’s trekking and climbing business as a porter and began carrying loads between 25 to 50 pounds of equipment at the age of 15. She also met her then 39-year-old future husband, George Dijmarescu, after a climb at a popular bar in Kathmandu.
Today she lives in a two-bedroom apartment in West Hartford with her two daughters, age eight and 13, and her 18-year-old son from a previous relationship. She was married for 12 years to Dijmarescu, a Romanian-American who is a nine-time Mount Everest climber. Five of her trips climbing Everest was organized by her ex-husband Dijamrescu.
Sherpa became the first Nepalese woman to survive the climb to Everest’s peak in 2000. A PBS article from 2003 mentions Lhakpa Sherpa and her climbing family’s Everest conquests. She has also been awarded six summit certificates including five from the Chinese government and one from Nepal. Despite her incredibly impressive achievements, not many know her name.
Lhakpa was briefly mentioned in a 2013 ESPN article that featured five-time Everest climber Melissa Arnot. The article read:
“It marked the fifth Everest summit for Arnot, a remarkable achievement for someone who has not yet turned 30. Records vary, but she is either the most accomplished female Everest climber ever, or the most accomplished non-Sherpa woman. (A Nepali named Lakpa Sherpa is said to have from four to six Everest summits; she did not reply to an email seeking verification.)”
Her anonymity is partly due to the perception that Sherpa people, the group of people who reside in high elevations in the mountainous region of the Himalayas, are excellent climbers, which results in their accomplishments not usually being singled out. However, Sherpa also has a reason for shying away from the media.
In 2004, she claimed to have been punched in the head by her ex-husband while at Everest’s north-side base camp while with other expedition teammates from Connecticut. Since then she has reportedly been too afraid to speak to reporters.
A civil trial in Connecticut Superior Court convicted Dijamrescu for a breach of peace but not for second-degree assault. He was given a six-month suspended sentence and a year of probation. The divorce was finalized and Sherpa, a permanent resident of the U.S., was awarded sole legal custody of her two daughters.
Last month, Sherpa embarked on a trip back to Nepal to climb Mount Everest for the seventh time. The trip has been run by her brother’s outfit, Seven Summits Club, which has provided her with all the equipment she needs. By the beginning of May, the team had already ascended 27,000 feet.