Between raising two daughters and working as a dishwasher at Whole Foods, Lhakpa Sherpa just doesn't have time for training to climb Mount Everest. Even so, she has done it a record eight times—and hopes to outdo herself yet again. The 44-year-old native of Nepal holds the world record for summits of Everest by a woman and plans to return this month for what has become an annual expedition to the top of the world. "My body knows that I have already been this high," she says, per the AP. "It's like a computer. It figures it out very quickly. My body knows the high altitude. It remembers." Lhakpa is recognized by Guinness World Records and is well known in mountaineering circles, but she spends most of the year living a modest life in obscurity in Connecticut, where she moved with her now ex-husband, another well-known climber, in 2002.
She gets up most days at 6am to walk her two daughters, 16-year-old Sunny and 11-year-old Shiny, to school. Then, because she does not know how to drive, often walks the 2 miles to her job, where she washes dishes in the prepared foods section and takes out the garbage. "You would never know she hiked Everest unless you knew her and talked to her about it," says Dan Furtado, the manager who hired Lhakpa at Whole Foods. "She's the most humble person I know, and her work ethic is astounding." Without a formal education, she has taken jobs in Connecticut cleaning houses, as a clerk at a local convenience store, and as a dishwasher to give her daughters and now-grown son a chance at a better life in the United States. "My rent is expensive here," she says, "but this is where the best schools are."