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Why You Probably Haven’t Heard of the Woman Who Holds the Record for Most Mount Everest Ascents

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Lhakpa Sherpa, a housekeeper in Hartford, Conn., holds the record for most Everest summits completed by a woman: Six. But until Outside told her story Tuesday, her accomplishments had gone largely unrecognized.

“The Wikipedia page that catalogs Everest records contains listings as specific as ‘first twins to climb Mount Everest together,’ but there’s no mention of Lhakpa,” Outside editor Grayson Schaffer writes in the article. “A 2013 ESPN.com article on five-time Everest summiter Melissa Arnot mentioned Lhakpa as an aside, calling Arnot ‘either the most accomplished female Everest climber ever or the most accomplished non-Sherpa woman. (A Nepali named Lhakpa Sherpa is said to have from four to six Everest summits.)'”

Schaffer brought attention to Lhakpa’s story by profiling her—and it’s already been shared more than 56,000 times, according to the site. The article delves into Lhakpa’s home and marital life, too: She and her ex-husband met after she first summited Everest in 2000, and they later climbed the mountain together.

In this photograph taken on April 13, 2016, Nepalese mountaineer Lakpa Sherpa prepares her equipment during an interview with AFP in Kathmandu. The daughter of a yak herder, Lhakpa Sherpa worked as a porter and kitchen hand on trekking and mountaineering expeditions when she was young, before climbing solo. Generations of men from Nepal's famed Sherpa community have climbed the Himalayas, while their wives and daughters have traditionally kept the home fires burning. But in a sign of changing times, a string of Sherpa women are now breaking records themselves, not only on 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) high Everest but other dangerous peaks. / AFP / PRAKASH MATHEMA / TO GO WITH AFP STORY NEPAL-MOUNTAINEERING-GENDER-QUAKE,FEATURE BY AMMU KANNAMPILLY (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
Nepalese mountaineer Lakpa Sherpa during an interview with AFP in Kathmandu on Apr. 13, 2016.Prakash Mathema—AFP/Getty Images

During one of their trips along the mountain, fellow climbers reported they witnessed domestic violence (Lhakpa said she was allegedly hit on the head). Lhakpa’s marriage ultimately ended in divorce, alleged death threats and custody battles.

In the article, Schaffer also revisits Lhakpa’s early life in Asia as a tomboy among 12 children. “I am very different kind of girl,” she told him. “I have seven sisters, but my mama say I mostly look like a boy. ‘Whatever boy doing, you doing. You never doing girl things. Mostly you’re doing boy things.’”

Lhakpa didn’t need to train for her Everest climbs, she told Schaffer, because she spent so much of her life doing manual labor. “She was born and raised above 13,000 feet and believes her strong will and genetics will get her to the top of the mountain, just as they have in the past,” Schaffer says of Lhakpa’s upcoming attempt at a seventh summit.”She has summited in fierce winds, in whiteouts and eight months after the birth of her first daughter. She went back up Everest when she was two months pregnant with her second child, a fact the younger daughter holds firmly over her big sister’s head.”

“Even if she succeeds in nabbing her seventh summit, she’ll almost certainly return to housekeeping in a world that is slow to validate her accomplishments,” wrote Schaffer, who notes that she ultimately hopes to be the subject of a movie and that she “desperately wants to meet Oprah Winfrey.”

Read the full profile of Lhakpa over at Outsider.

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