Meet The First Dog Ever To Climb Mount Everest

In 2013, a former stray dog made headlines by being declared "the first dog to climb Mt. Everest." Rupee (pictured here) was rescued by animal rights activist and world traveler Joanne Lefson from a garbage dump in Ladakh, Northern India when he was just a few months old. Lefson had originally planned to trek to Everest with her dog Oscar (who had accompanied her on many trips around the world) but a few months before the trip, he was hit by a car and died. So when she found Rupee, starved and near death, it felt like a sign (via Daily Mail). With lots of vet care and some great food, Rupee recovered. And while Lefson wasn't sure he would be up for a long trek in the mountains, turns out Rupee was more than ready for it.

While dogs (or any other domestic animals, for that matter) don't usually live on Everest (even near Base Camp), it's not rare to find some strays hanging around during the climbing season. Some are thereafter following climbers on their way to the mountain, others live in nearby villages or in the valley and are attracted by the activity and the hope of food (per Nature and Travel Lovers). 

Some strays even brave the way up the mountain at times, making it as high as Camp 2 in good weather. These are usually dogs used to living in the area and accustomed to the conditions, eager to chase climbers until the conditions become too harsh and the dogs turn around.

Dogs aren't that rare on Everest, but Rupee is unique in one way

Technically speaking, Rupee isn't the first dog to set foot on Everest. Nepal has a big stray dog problem, with Wisdom Panel estimating that there are over 20,000 stray dogs in the streets of Katmandu alone. In a country with a rabies problem, street dogs are considered "suspicious" and many stay away from them for fear of getting bit or contracting a disease (via Nature and Travel Lovers). 

But climbers, especially foreigners who aren't particularly afraid of dogs, are appealing to strays. These are the kind of humans that will often share food and even a kind word or a pat on the head, so dogs will follow climbers and often end up joining treks towards Everest. 

But Rupee, who has been nicknamed "the slumdog mountaineer" after his mountain adventure, it's the first dog officially recorded at Mount Everest's base camp (per Daily Mail). He's also the first dog ever to complete the entire trek to Mount Everest's base camp, an 80-mile, 10-plus day-long walk that's not for the faint of heart, Nature and Travel Lovers reports.

The trek requires walking at least five hours a day (but more on some days) on rough terrain — and while the incline isn't steep, you're trekking at an altitude of over 3400 miles above sea level, which means there's about 50% less oxygen than at lower altitudes (via Adventure Alternative). In short, it's not a walk in the park. 

Getting ready for the Everest adventure

While Rupee had not spent months or years hanging out around Everest's base camp like many strays, the fact that he'd been born at higher altitudes in the Himalayas certainly helped. A vet who examined him before the trip told Lefson he would likely be able to handle the thin air well simply because of this, People reports.    

With a medical clearance out of the way, Lefson then set up to prepare for the trip. The first step was to organize a trek that allowed her to bring a dog along, which meant trekking the longer route to South Base Camp (the North Base Camp wouldn't allow dogs to come along), according to Nature and Travel Lovers.  

At 8 months old, Rupee was still a young pup, and Lefson was concerned about how well he would handle the long trek. So she hired an extra porter (sherpas who usually accompany climbers and carry their bags and extra gear) to come along for the trek "in case Rupee needed to hitch a ride," as reported via Daily Mail. But Rupee surprised everybody, playing in the snow and loving every minute of it. 

Lefson, who works in animal rescue, wanted to raise global awareness about stray dogs and how amazing they can be if given a second chance. But the trip was also a way to honor her beloved Oscar (also a rescued dog) and his legacy.  

Rupee is not the only dog to attempt a major climb

In fact, whatever record Rupee set was broken in 2019 by another stray dog called Mera. Perhaps more shocking is the fact that Mera didn't attempt the climb with her owner. Instead, she simply befriended a group of climbers hoping to summit Baruntse mountain in Nepal and then simply joined them on the climb to the top. According to The Bark, Mera made it all the way to reach 23,389 feet above sea level along his human companions. Along the way, she temporarily got stuck on a glacier and spent two nights sleeping outside on her own –- that is, until some of the expedition guides went back for her. Climber Don Wargowsky then shared a tent with the brave 45-pound mutt for the rest of the three-week climb (via The Independent).  

Mera was originally a bit of an unwelcomed guest on the climb, but even the sherpas soon noticed her tenacity and strength and deemed her their "good luck charm" for the expedition –- which safely reached the top of the mountain as planned. Mera, an apparent mix of mountain-ready breeds like a Himalayan Sheepdog and a Tibetan Mastiff, joined the climbers on the way down from the mountain as well.

It turned out to be a lucky week for Mera –- she was adopted by the expedition's base camp manager. She might not have made it to Everest, but hers is a feat to remember as well.