By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU (Reuters) - A Nepali climber who scaled Mount Everest for a record 28th time this week, the most by any mountaineer, said on Thursday he had no immediate plans to hang up his climbing boots.
Kami Rita Sherpa, 53, who reached the 8,849-metre (29,032-foot) summit of the world's highest mountain on Tuesday, returned to the Nepali capital of Kathmandu to a hero’s welcome.
He was surrounded by friends and family after flying by helicopter from Lukla, gateway to Everest climbs.
"If my health permits I’ll continue (climbing) next year," he told reporters in Nepali.
His latest climb was the second time he had scaled the mountain to the summit within a week.
A British climber, Kenton Cool, climbed the peak last week for the 17th time, the most ascents by a foreigner.
Kami Rita first climbed Everest in 1994 and has climbed every year since then except in 2014, 2015 and 2020 when authorities closed the mountain for various reasons.
Sherpas come mainly from the Solukhumbu district, home to Mount Everest and several other peaks, and are known for their climbing skills. They earn a living mainly by guiding foreign clients to Everest and other Himalayan peaks.
Nepal issued a record of 478 permits to Everest for the current climbing season that ends this month as the monsoon rains are expected to lash the Himalayas and lowlands.
Hundreds of climbers have made it to the top this season while 11 mountaineers have died and three climbers have gone missing on the slopes of the mountain.
Mountain climbing is a key source of employment and income for the cash-strapped nation, home to eight of the world's 14 highest peaks, including Mount Everest.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Frances Kerry)