[FOUNTAIN]The forgotten climberHalf a century ago, on May 29, 1953, at 11:30 a.m., two men reached the top of Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain at 8,850 meters (29,100 feet).
Of the two, Sir Edmund Hillary, now 83, became the greater celebrity. But Tenzing Norgay, a sherpa who was at that time 39, was known by only a few people outside his region.
Sherpas are a mountaineering people who hail from Nepal and North India, and have been expert mountaineering guides on all Himalayan expeditions.
Once at the peak, Sir Edmund was busy taking photographs to commemorate his success and souvenirs to take to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II; Mr. Tenzing was busy searching for the “golden cow,” part of a legendary tale of riches on the mountain that he had heard from his father.
To Mr. Hillary, Everest may have meant honor. To Mr. Tenzing, Everest meant riches.
Born to a poor yak herder, he wanted to be a Buddhist monk. But he ran away from a preparatory training at a temple because he could not endure the harsh beatings of his teacher. Sick of poverty, he chose to become a porter because it was the fastest path to riches.
By reaching the top of Everest, he succeeded and became a hero. Nursing a long-time grudge at not having received an education, he sent all six of his children to school, saying, “I climb mountains so that you will not have to.”
When one of his sons, Jamling Tenzing Norgay, would not give up the dream of climbing Mount Everest, Mr. Tenzing said, “You will not see all of the world from Mount Everest. You will only learn how vast it is.” He died at the age of about 70; his birth date is uncertain.
Mr. Tenzing’s son Jamling, who also reached Mount Everest’s peak, and succeeding sherpas have kept the mystery and the myth of Mount Everest alive. On the 50th anniversary of man’s first climb, many have attempted the climb.
Among them, Lhakpa Cela, a sherpa, broke the record, finishing the ascent from the base camp in the span of 10 hours and 15 minutes. Appa succeeded on his 13th climb, becoming the most frequent climber of Everest. A 15-year-old girl, Ming Kipa, became the youngest climber.
Mr. Tenzing, who had been in the shadows of Mr. Hillary, would be laughing with joy in his grave at the news.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo correspondent in London.