A record-breaking Nepalese Sherpa flew to Mount Everest today to prepare to scale the world's highest mountain once again and scatter the ashes of its most celebrated climber, Sir Edmund Hillary.
Apa, who with 19 successful climbs holds the record for the most trips to the summit, flew from the Nepalese capital, Katmandu, to Lukla, where he will begin yet another trek up Everest - this time to deposit Sir Edmund's remaining ashes and clean up the peak.
Some of Sir Edmund's ashes were scattered in the sea off New Zealand by his family soon after his death in 2008.
"I have three goals during my 20th climb of Everest. I will be taking and scattering the ashes of Edmund Hillary at the summit, clean up the mountain and promote Nepal as tourism destination," said the 49-year-old Apa, who like most Sherpas goes by one name.
Apa and his fellow climbers - 17 other Sherpas and 12 Westerners - plan to collect 15,400lb (7,000kg) of rubbish, a growing environmental problem on the Himalayan peak. They plan to pay porters to help bring down the refuse.
Apa first climbed the 29,035ft (8,850m) mountain in 1989 and has repeated the feat almost every year since. His closest rival is fellow Sherpa guide Chhewang Nima, who has made 15 trips to the summit.
Apa and his team plan to scale the summit in May, when the weather is most favourable. Climbers generally have a window of a few days to attempt to reach the summit before weather turns treacherous.
He said he also wants to promote Nepal's campaign to attract half a million tourists in 2011, as the country recovers from years of instability and communist insurgency.
Apa grew up in the foothills of Everest and began carrying equipment and supplies for trekkers and mountaineers at age 12. He moved to the United States in 2006 and lives in the Salt Lake City suburb of Draper.
Sherpas were mostly yak herders and traders living in the Himalayas until Nepal opened its borders to tourists in 1950. Their stamina and knowledge of the mountains makes them expert guides and porters.