“A queen among the Sherpa people,” is how mountaineer Dave Watson described Lhakpa Sherpa in Grayson Schaffer’s 2016 Outside feature story on the Nepali alpinist.
While Lhakpa may not be an actual monarch in her home country, she is royalty among mountaineers on Mount Everest. On Thursday the 48-year-old completed her tenth trip to the 29,035-foot peak, breaking her own record for most successful Everest climbs by a woman.
One of Lhakpa’s crew members confirmed to Outside that she summited at approximately 6:30 A.M., following a 24-hour nonstop ascent. After topping out, Lhakpa descended to Camp II, at 20,997 feet. She plans to climb down to Base Camp on Friday morning if the weather holds.
Lhakpa’s tenth summit comes 22 years after her first. In 2000, she became the first Nepali woman to climb Mount Everest and make it down alive, seven years after her countrywoman, Pasang Lamu Sherpa, died during an attempt. Lhakpa went on to become a fixture on the mountain in the early aughts, summiting five times between 2001 and 2006.
“I climbed Everest eight months after giving birth to my first daughter,” she told the BBC in 2016. “And I climbed when I was two months pregnant with my smaller daughter. It was not easy, but I managed all right.”
She was often overlooked by outdoor media as well as her own countrymen, who focused on the achievements of male Sherpa mountaineers.
That dynamic has changed somewhat in the past decade, as Lhakpa began to speak to more Western reporters following her divorce from Romanian mountaineer George Dijmarescu. She opened up about her childhood in Nepal and about being a victim of domestic violence at the hands of her husband.
“The relationship was good before I had children, but once I had children, he started hitting me,” she told a court in 2015.
Lhakpa Sherpa grew up with 11 siblings and did not go to school. Her family assisted climbers in the Makalu region of the Himalayas, and her brother Mingma Gelu Sherpa is now managing director of the guiding company Seven Summit Club. Lhakpa began working as a porter in the mountains at age 15.
“I am very different kind of girl,” she told Schaffer in 2016. “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.’”
Now Lhakpa lives in West Hartford, Connecticut, where she works at the local Whole Foods and is a mother to two teenage daughters. She completed her expedition to Everest this season without the help of sponsors for her climbing gear. Yet she was not alone—Lhakpa was trailed by a film crew from the Bay Area–based production company Avocados and Coconuts, whose forthcoming film on her ascent has yet to be titled.
Awaiting her at Base Camp are her youngest daughter, Shiny, and her niece, Jangmu. A recent video on her Instagram account showed Lhakpa and Shiny performing a ceremony amid tents and falling snow.
“We’re doing a puja for my 10th summit and for all the other mountaineers climbing Everest this year,” she wrote. “Thank you for supporting us through this journey.”