Utahn returns home after 20th summit of Everest
Apa Sherpa has been asked the same question more times than it took steps to reach the top of Mount Everest for the 20th time.
"Will you do it again?"
Apa, who broke his own world record for reaching 29,035 feet above sea level on May 22, returned home to Utah on Tuesday to relieved family and friends who gathered to welcome him from another safe trip.
Apa has been asked the question every time he's broken his record the most recent ascent was the 10th but at age 50 and with a milestone number the question seems to have more meaning.
"I will see," Apa said, his eyes weary. "It is my usual answer."
Life has been a whirlwind since he made it back to base camp, with a quick return to Kathmandu where hordes of media swarmed the famed climber. There were parades and award ceremonies to attend before returning to his home in Draper.
Despite no training during the past year and a little concern about his age, Apa said he felt great this spring.
"While the others were playing cards and stuff in base camp, I went hiking," he said. "I felt very healthy this time."
Apa was climbing with the Eco Everest Expedition, raising awareness of the changes happening on the Himalayas due to global climate change. He also wanted to focus attention to the Apa Sherpa Foundation, set up to increase educational resources for teachers and students in the Himalayas and to preserve Sherpa culture and language. It is such causes that pull Apa back to Everest. He never meant to become the world record holder for trips to the highest point on the planet, but he has taken the responsibility of holding the title seriously.
There are others closing in on his total, including another Sherpa from his home village of Thame who made the trip twice this year to reach 19. Apa does not care if his record is passed; he only hopes that climber will carry the torch he lit.
"I don't care about the bragging for the record," he said. "But when it happens, they have to follow in the future what I'm doing now. Having the record gives you a voice and it must be used for good."
One response Apa likes to use when asked if he will return for another attempt, particularly in the Nepal news media, is "Ask my wife."
Yangjin, his wife, has seen those quotes. She laughs at her husband's response.
"He has said 'One more time' to me 19 times," Yangjin said. "I understand why it is important to him to climb. I am just so grateful and happy every time he returns."