Ang Rita Sherpa (R), who climbed Mount Everest 10 times without the use of supplemental oxygen, talks to Min Bahadur Sherchan, the oldest person to scale Mount Everest, at a news conference in Kathmandu 29 November 2009.
Ang Rita Sherpa (R), who climbed Mount Everest 10 times without the use of supplemental oxygen, talks to Min Bahadur Sherchan, the oldest person to scale Mount Everest, at a news conference in Kathmandu 29 November 2009.Reuters

A veteran Nepalese Sherpa guide Ang Rita who was the first person to climb Mount Everest 10 times has died in his sleep at the age of 72 after a long illness, reports AP quoting his family members.

Ang Rita Sherpa, popularly known as the Snow Leopard, first reached the summit of the world's tallest mountain in 1983.

Ang Rita was a national hero but struggled financially and with his health, including liver illness and swelling of the brain

Ang Rita, among the first Sherpa guides to receive international fame for his accomplishments, had been suffering from various health problems for many years and had not climbed any mountains since setting the Everest record in 1996.

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His daughter, Dolma Lhamo, said he died in his sleep on Monday at their home on the outskirts of Nepal's capital, Kathmandu.

Sherpa are an ethnic group from the Himalayan region, many of whom work as guides or support staff for foreign climbers. They carry equipment and supplies and dig paths in the snow and ice to help their clients get to the summit, usually with little recognition.

Ang Rita was a national hero but struggled financially and with his health, including liver illness and swelling of the brain. He was in bad health at his home in his mountain village in 1999 when his close friend, former Nepal Mountaineering Association President Ang Tshering, hired a helicopter and flew him to a hospital in Kathmandu for treatment.

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He was hospitalised again for months in 2017 due to continued swelling of the brain. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Sherpa are an ethnic group from the Himalayan region, many of whom work as guides or support staff for foreign climbers. They carry equipment and supplies and dig paths in the snow and ice to help their clients get to the summit, usually with little recognition.

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Since Ang Rita set his record on the world's highest peak, several mountaineers have surpassed it. Kami Rita, who is not related, has scaled the 8,850-meter (29,0235-foot) peak 24 times.

Ang Rita is survived by a daughter and two sons. Funeral plans are to be decided by the family's Buddhist priest.