14 hours and 31 minutes: Funjo Lama is the fastest woman to summit Everest. GETTY IMAGES

The Nepalese mountaineer shaved eleven hours off the women's record for the ascent of the world's highest mountain on Thursday. She set the best time in 2018, but Hong Kong's Ada Tsang Yin-hung took the record in 2021, climbing in 25 hours and 50 minutes. Lama's successful ascent was coincided with the confirmation of the death of a Kenyan mountaineer on Everest.

No woman has ever climbed Everest as fast as Phunjo Lama on Thursday. The mountaineer broke the record. She climbed the world's highest mountain in 14 hours and 31 minutes. Lama did in half a day what most climbers take days to do. The mountain is 8,849 metres (29,000 feet) high. It requires spending nights in different camps to rest and acclimatise. Lama did it in a sprint.

"She started (from the base camp) at 3.52pm on 22 May. She reached the summit at 6.23am on 23 May," Khim Lal Gautam, head of the tourism department's field office at the base camp, told AFP.

The climber was clear about her goal. Earlier this month, while still at base camp, Lama said in a Facebook post that she was "100 per cent sure" she would reach the summit of the "Mother Goddess". She was right. She took her time to prepare, but when she decided to climb, she did so in pursuit of a record that will be very difficult for anyone to break.

Lama, along with her team at the summit of Everest this Thursday. GETTY IMAGES
Lama, along with her team at the summit of Everest this Thursday. GETTY IMAGES

In 2018, Lama set the record for the fastest ascent by a woman. She climbed Everest in 39 hours and six minutes. However, in 2021, Ada Tsang Yin-hung from Hong Kong conquered the mountain in fourteen hours less, in 25 hours and 50 minutes.

The men's record is held by fellow Nepali Lhakpa Gelu Sherpa. He climbed Everest in 10 hours and 56 minutes in 2003.
"She is very brave and determined... and has trained hard for her summit," said fellow climber Maya Sherpa. Lama lives on the mountain. The mountain is her life. As well as climbing, she is also a guide and long-distance helicopter rescuer, a job that involves flying while dangling from a rope to rescue injured climbers when the terrain is too dangerous for aircraft to approach or land.

As well as Everest, Lama has climbed some of the world's highest mountains. These include Manaslu and Cho Oyu, both in the Himalayas. "Her record is an inspiration to other Nepali women climbers."

Lama's ascent came as the death of a Kenyan climber on Everest was confirmed. The search continued for three other missing climbers, one British and two Nepalese. It has been a dangerous month, with accidents occurring out of control.

Earlier this month, two Mongolian climbers went missing after reaching the summit of Everest. They were later found dead.
The world's highest mountain has always been the ultimate challenge for any mountaineering enthusiast. But its popularity has also claimed many lives.

Nepal has issued more than 900 permits for its mountains this year, including 419 for Everest. It has earned more than $5 million (€4.6 million) in royalties. More than 500 climbers and their guides have already reached the summit of Everest. A rope-fixing team reached the summit last month.

Phunjo Lama on the way to the summit of Everest. GETTY IMAGES
Phunjo Lama on the way to the summit of Everest. GETTY IMAGES

Also this year, for the first time since the pandemic closed the Tibetan route in 2020, China has reopened it to foreigners. Nepal is home to the most eight-thousanders within its borders and receives many requests to climb each year, especially in spring when people seek warmer temperatures and typically calm winds.

Last year, over 600 climbers reached the summit of Everest, but it was also the deadliest season on the mountain, with 18 deaths.

Climbing the great mountains of the Himalayas in general, and Everest in particular, has undergone a change of mentality. The mystique of the old mountaineers is gone. They achieved their feats without the aid of technology, logistical support or oxygen. Nowadays, commercial expeditions have made the top of the world much more accessible. 

This has somewhat diminished the heroic feeling. The mountains are not without danger, even if guides prepare and support their clients and oxygen makes things easier. Traps lie in wait. The confidence of people who sometimes lack the necessary preparation and experience complicates matters.