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Monday, October 25, 1999 Published at 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK

World: South Asia

Legendary sherpa gives up mountains

Ang Rita has announced his retirement after more than 20 years in the mountains

Ang Rita, the legendary mountain guide who has climbed Mount Everest a record 10 times without oxygen, has been forced by illness to give up mountaineering.

Mr Rita - known as "King of Sherpas" - has been mountaineering for more than two decades.

But two weeks ago, the 51-year-old man they also call "Snow Leopard" was admitted to hospital in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.

Suffering from a severe chest infection, he was flown by helicopter from his home village of Thame, near Mt Everest, to the clinic where he is being treated for suspected tuberculosis.

[ image: Everest is a challenge for the best climbers in the world]
Everest is a challenge for the best climbers in the world
"Everyone has suggested to me not to climb mountains any more. Moreover, I am sick and tired and old enough to retire," he was quoted as saying after a two-week stay in hospital.

Born in 1948 at Khumbu, Mr Rita has climbed all the major mountains of Nepal and Tibet. Throughout the world he is revered as one of the best mountain climbers of all time.

Man at the top

His feat of 10 climbs to the summit of the 8,848-metre (29,028ft) high Everest was equalled by Appa Sherpa in May.

Mr Rita has climbed at least four other peaks of more than 8,000 metres (26,246ft).

Now he says he will remain in Kathmandu to spend more time in hospital for treatment. Doctors say they now need to carry out further tests to see if the climber might have contracted tuberculosis.

The Nepalese Government has said it will bear all the costs of Ang Rita's treatment.

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