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Nepali Highlands Observe Mt. Everest Anniversary - 2003-05-29


We take a look at what has changed in the highlands of Nepal since the historic ascent of Mt. Everest took place more than 50 years ago. Jim Harriott looks at then and now.

They call it the “Roof of the World”—Mt. Everest, in the remote highlands of Nepal. The historic ascent 50 years ago by Edmund Hillary and his sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, paved the way for the thousands of climbers who would follow the famous pair, up the windy, snow-swept slopes. It brought worldwide recognition, sparked tourism, and transformed lives.

ANG RITA, SHERPA, HIMALYAN TRUST
“Now the area has been exposed to so much. We have tele-communications have been there. We have satellite televisions are there. We have telephones are there. So, these are bringing a change of life.”

But some things do not change.

HARKA RAI, SHERPA
“We should do lots of struggle like, we have to carry a heavy load.”

Speaking of loads, 50 years ago, the oxygen systems were so primitive, modern mountaineers’ question whether their benefits were outweighed by the effort needed to carry them. Tenzing Norgay’s son, Jamling Tenzing:

JAMLING TENZING
“This is one of the oxygen cylinders that my father used in 1953.”

It weighed 9 1/2 kilograms. Mountaineering expert, Paul Deegan:

PAUL DEEGAN, MOUNTAINEER
“So when Hillary went to the summit for the final camp, he was carrying a massive 27 and a half kilos on his back – which is an enormous weight at that altitude.”

That was then, this is now. Wooden ice axes have been replaced with the finest lightweight steel, and colorful modern equipment that has evolved over the years.

But, for the sherpas, the loads remain heavy. British trekker - Liz Velji:

LIZ VELJI, BRITISH CLIMBER
“I’m just in awe of those people carrying those loads up those mountains. It’s unbelievable really."

The word “sherpa” means “person from the east”. The first sherpas are believed to have walked from eastern Tibet.

A year after the historic conquest of Everest the most famous of them, Tenzing Norgay, set up his mountaineering institute in the foothill town of Darjeeling. There he dedicated much of his time to training young climbers until his death in 1986. As the tradition continues, climber’s graduate to scale “Tenzing Rock” named in his honor.

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