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Ang Rita, first person to climb Everest 10 times, dies aged 72

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Ang Rita in 2009 at a press conference in Katmandu, Nepal
Ang Rita in 2009 at a press conference in Katmandu, Nepal   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Binod Joshi, File
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A veteran Nepalese Sherpa guide who was the first person to climb Mount Everest 10 times has died at the age of 72 after a long illness, family members said.

Ang Rita, among the first Sherpa guides to receive international fame for his accomplishments, had suffered from health problems for many years and had not climbed any mountains since setting the Everest record in 1996.

His daughter, Dolma Lhamo, said he died in his sleep Monday at their home on the outskirts of Nepal's capital, Kathmandu.

Ang Rita was a national hero known as the “snow leopard” but struggled financially and with his health, including liver illness and swelling of the brain.

He was in bad health at his home in his mountain village in 1999 when his close friend, former Nepal Mountaineering Association President Ang Tshering, hired a helicopter and flew him to a hospital in Kathmandu for treatment.

He was hospitalised again for months in 2017 due to continued swelling of the brain. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Sherpa are an ethnic group from the Himalayan region, many of whom work as guides or support staff for foreign climbers.

They carry equipment and supplies and dig paths in the snow and ice to help their clients get to the summit, often with little recognition.

Since Ang Rita set his record on the world's highest peak, several mountaineers have surpassed it. Kami Rita, who is not related, has scaled the 8,850-meter (29,0235-foot) peak 24 times.

Ang Rita is survived by a daughter and two sons.