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Everest's legendary 'snow leopard' Ang Rita Sherpa dies at 72

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Kathmandu (AFP)

A famed Nepali Everest climber nicknamed "snow leopard" for his record of summiting the world's highest mountain a record 10 times without bottled oxygen has died aged 72, officials said Monday.

Ang Rita Sherpa collapsed at his daughter's home in Kathmandu, his close friend and Nepal Mountaineering Association president, Ang Tshering Sherpa, told AFP.

"During his time, he was the strongest climber in the world and a star," said Ang Tshering.

"This is a big loss for the mountaineering community."

Nepal's tourism department said his contribution to mountaineering "will be always be remembered".

Ang Rita held the record since 1996 for ascending 8,848-metre-high (29,028-foot) Everest the most times without bottled oxygen, following his first ascent in 1983.

He also achieved the first winter summit of Everest without supplementary oxygen in 1987.

Born in the Everest region, Ang Rita was a teenager when he first started working as a porter.

He quickly rose through the ranks to become a guide -- summiting some of Nepal's highest mountains.

A few years after his record-breaking feat in 1996 he started to suffer from liver problems, and was also hospitalised in 2017 for other ailments.

His body has been moved to a monastery in Kathmandu and his funeral will take place this week according to Buddhist traditions.

Some 200 mountaineers have climbed Everest without bottled oxygen, according to the authoritative Himalayan Database, but Ang Rita's record remains.

Kami Rita Sherpa has summited Everest a record 24 times, but mostly with the aid of bottled oxygen.

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