Climbing to the top of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, has long been regarded as one of the greatest of human achievements.

Nepali woman Phunjo Lama conquered that challenge in 14 hours and 31 minutes on Thursday local time, as just one half of her effort to reclaim the world record for the fastest women’s ascent to the summit.

The official method for timing a climber on Mount Everest is actually how long it takes them to get up the mountain and then get back down safely.

By that measure Ms Lama was also successful, setting a record at 24 hours and 26 minutes when she returned to base camp on Thursday afternoon.

The feat takes most climbers several days.

But accomplishment and tragedy often run parallel on the slopes of Everest.

Five climbers have died in the past week, and three more are missing.

A man and a woman standing at a camp on Mount Everest, with a strong of flags in the background.

Phunjo Lama conquered the world’s biggest mountain in a record 14 hours and 31 minutes.(Supplied: Climbing the Seven Summits )

A message of world peace

Phunjo Lama held the record previously, but lost it to a climber from Hong Kong in 2021.

Now she has reclaimed it, beating the existing record by more than an hour.

“She likes to be faced with fear,” her brother Sonam Lama said, speaking to the ABC from the siblings’ remote home village in the Tsum Valley in western Nepal.

Mr Lama said his sister completed the feat on Buddha Jayanti — a significant Buddhist festival marking the birth of Buddha — to spread a message of world peace.

He said, as a child, Ms Lama would often climb to higher altitudes to spend time with her beloved grandfather who herded yaks in the mountains.

“I’ve noticed since childhood that she always liked to be close to the mountains and terrain while we got afraid of going to the big mountains,” he said.

Ms Lama’s success comes after another first on Wednesday when veteran 54-year-old Kami Rita Sherpa set a record tally of 30 climbs of Mount Everest.

He broke his own record of 29 climbs, which he set just 10 days earlier.

Dewan Rai, the Kathamandu-based editor of specialist mountain and environmental publication Everest Chronicle, said it is his yearly ritual.

“He takes his climbs every year to the summit of the world, so this time also he did it twice. Not just once but twice,” Mr Rai said.

“He might be attempting Everest for more years.”

Deadly conditions

Mount Everest

Climbing Mount Everest is regarded as one of the greatest things a human can achieve.(Facebook)

Mr Lama said his sister described congestion on the path to the summit and a very tight window of favourable weather.

“When she reached the summit the weather was very good, but on the way it was very windy,” he said.

“Because of the traffic she had to struggle, otherwise she could have made it in shorter hours.”

Some climbers, however, have not made it back from their attempts to summit Everest.

So far in the past week at least five climbers have died — two Mongolian climbers, one Nepali, one Romanian, and one Kenyan climber whose Nepali guide is still missing.


Two other missing climbers, a British man and his Nepali guide, are believed to have fallen down the treacherous Tibet-China side of the mountain.

Dewan Rai said there was not much hope for their survival, with high altitude workers telling him it was unlikely they would be found alive.

“First of all it’s 8,000 metres, so altitude itself is a challenge, and secondly the slope is very steep,” he said.

“Neither have rescue helicopters or any rescuers from the ground who can go to the slope and look for them.”

Australian man Jason Kennison, 40, died while descending Mount Everest in May last year.

Posted 9h ago9 hours agoFri 24 May 2024 at 11:21pm, updated 3h ago3 hours agoSat 25 May 2024 at 5:29am