Ang Dorjee Sherpa has climbed with hundreds of mountaineers up the majestic slopes of Mount Everest during the past two decades.
On March 24, he left his Richland home once again to help guide yet another troupe of thrill seekers up the treacherous slopes of the world's tallest peak.
And though most adventuresome folks are awed by Ang Dorjee's accomplishments, this world-renowned mountain-climbing guide, husband and father, he remains humbled by life as well as the 29,029-foot mountain.
"After so many climbs, it does become a little routine doing the same thing every day, like any job you do for many years," he said with smile.
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Ang Dorjee, 42, was happy to get home Tuesday from his 16th summit of Mount Everest to spend time with his wife, Michelle Gregory, and their two children.
"I've made the climb to the top 18 times but two of those trips, we were forced to turn around before reaching the top," he said.
Ang Dorjee grew up in Nepal and made his first climb onto Everest at age 22. Since then, he's become a legend for guiding numerous expeditions, not only in Tibet but also Pakistan, Europe and South America.
Danger is the name of the game when it comes to scaling high peaks, but this year, climbs on Mount Everest took an exceptional toll on human life, as seven people died. There were no deaths on his most recent trip, he said.
There are all sorts of theories as to why so many climbers died during this particular mountaineering season, but Ang Dorjee said knew of only one who died, a guide, because of human error.
"A safety hook was not attached correctly (while crossing a ladder bridge), and he fell into a crevasse," he said. And some climbers go their own way without guides, and that can sometimes be deadly, he added.
Ang Dorjee was a guide in 1996, a disastrous year when 15 people died trying to climb Everest. Journalist Jon Krakauer, who summited with Ang Dorjee's group, wrote the bestseller Into Thin Air about the experience.
Ang Dorjee works as a wind turbine mechanic for H & N Electric Motors in Pasco when he isn't leading clients in the Himalayas. And even though he's thousands of miles from home, he talks to his wife and children via mobile phone every day during his climbs.
"Sometimes, I have to use a satellite phone, but mostly we can talk on a cellphone," he said. He plans to stay home this summer but will return to Nepal in October with his family to lead a few smaller treks through the lower elevations of the Himalayas.
One of those climbs will be to Island Peak, which is a 20,305-foot mountain also known as Imja Tse. It's also one of the most popular climbing peaks in Nepal.
"It's only a one-day climb, but it's higher and a more technical climb than Mount Rainier," he said.
He also suggested he might climb Mount Everest just a couple more times before he gives up the mountain for good.
"I have lots of yard work and catching up with my kids to do," he said. "But you just never know."