Tenzing Norgay Sherpa 100th birth anniversary, Kanchha Sherpa recalls historic 1953 summit

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay sherpa
Tenzing's life in pictures on 100th birth anniversary
Kolkata, May 29 (IANS): A photographic presentation here Thursday brought to life the triumphant moments of the first successful ascent of Mount Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, on the Nepali sherpa's 100th birth anniversary.

The event also commemorated the 61st anniversary of the historic feat.

New Zealander Hillary and Norgay reached the 8,850-metre summit of Everest May 29, 1953 as part of the ninth British expedition to attempt scaling the world's tallest peak.

The mountaineers stayed at the summit for about 15 minutes before beginning the long trek down the mountain.

Hillary and Norgay blazed a trail that has been followed by nearly 6,200 climbers.

Hillary (1919-2008) was 33 when he conquered Everest. Norgay, born in May 1914, was 39. After the epoch-making event May 29, the sherpa decided to celebrate his birthday on the same date every year.

Sujoy Das, a veteran photographer of the Himalayas, showcased Norgay's extraordinary life through pictures at an art gallery here. The pictures were sourced from various collections across the world as well from the sherpa's own archives.

Norgay passed away in 1986 in Darjeeling, West Bengal, at the age of 72.

"We have got photographs from the 1953 climb, as well as from earlier expeditions in the 1920s and 1930s. There are photos of Tenzing Norgay's days in Darjeeling as well," Das, who has been trekking in the Himalayas for the last 30 years, told IANS.

The show is a dedication to the grit and glory of the sherpas, the ethnic group living at the foot of the mountains, who are preferred by foreigners for Himalayan expeditions due to their physical strength as well as for their honesty.

The boom in commercial expeditions since the 1990s has led to an increased demand for the tough guides of the mountains. However, this has also put the lives of the sherpas in danger.

The death of 13 sherpas and the disappearance of three in an avalanche on Everest last month has brought to the fore the extreme conditions they are exposed to.

"They are the ones who do the actual groundwork. But because of the rise in the number of expeditions, the mountain ranges have become overcrowded. Regulations and controls are needed to ensure safety of the climbers," Das said.

More than 300 people have died on Everest since the first successful climb in 1953.

Kanchha Sherpa recalls historic 1953 summit 

Kanchha Sherpa

KATHMADNU: For Kanchha Sherpa, 81, of Namche Bazaar, May 29 is etched in his memory for life. He was part of the team that helped Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary scale the world’s highest mountain on this day in 1953. The image of the legendary climbers sharing the joy of their achievement is still fresh in his mind.

He arrived in Kathmandu this afternoon to attend a joint function being organised by tourism and mountaineering organisations to mark the day though the government has shelved its plan to mark the 61st anniversary of the conquest of world highest peak this year, as ‘it coincides with the Republic Day’.

The only living legend of the 1953 expedition recalls that there were 15 Sherpas and 16 foreigners in the team. “It took us 22 days to reach the Base Camp from Bhaktapur and the summit was made in 45 days,” he told THT.

Kanchha joined Tenzing’s team after his father Angbabu sent him to Darjeeling to support Tenzing’s family. “My father was with Tenzing during an unsuccessful attempt from North side in 1952,” he said.

After serving nearly four months for Tenzing’s family, Kanchha was included as support staff in Tenzing team. He was paid eight rupees a day for carrying loads up the ice slopes. He remembers how 25 porters carried silver coins to Namche to pay allowances to the support staff and five police personnel were assigned to arrange security to the coin carriers.

“It was not an easy route. We fell 20 trees in Namche and brought them to the Base Camp to make temporary ladders,” he said.

Kanchha said all their hard work bore fruit when on the historic day, 29 May 1953, only Tenzing and Hillary left for summit from South Col at around 4:00am. “Only eight Sherpas could reach up to Camp 4. We were asked to return to C2 from C4 and around 12:00 noon the legendary mountaineers made it to the summit.”

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