Central & South Asia

Nepal marks milestone of Everest conquest

Many blame industry bred by success of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay for ruining the world's highest peak.

Last Modified: 29 May 2013 08:49
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Nepal is marking 60 years since the first ascent of Everest, celebrating the summiteers whose success has bred an industry that many climbers now fear is ruining the world's highest peak.

Four days of ceremonies which have been dubbed the Everest Diamond Jubilee conclude on Wednesday with a gala at the former royal palace in the capital Kathmandu in honour of the first successful climbers, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

The 1953 British expedition changed mountaineering forever and turned Hillary, a New Zealander, and Norgay, a Nepalese guide, into household names and heroes in many parts of the world.

"Hillary and Tenzing were rock stars of the 1950s and into the 1960s," Hillary's son Peter said.

"The biggest thing about 1953 is that they were going into the unknown."

Among the climbers honoured by Nepal on Wednesday was Italian Reinhold Messner, the first climber to scale Everest without using bottled oxygen and the first person to climb all of the world's 14 highest peaks.

"I am here in Nepal again for filming ... not any more for climbing," Messner said, adding he did reach the base camp of Mount Kanchenjunga during his visit.

"I am full of energy and full of enthusiasm for this country."

Nepalese officials offered flower garlands and scarfs to the climbers who took part in the ceremony.

They were taken around Kathmandu on horse-drawn carriages followed by hundreds of people who marched holding banners to mark the anniversary.

Gala dinner

A host of famous mountaineering figures are expected to attend a gala later in London on Wednesday, including Kancha Sherpa, the last remaining member of the 1953 expedition.

Sherpa, who is 81, remembers the expedition as an arduous but ultimately joyous affair, although he regrets that the glory is not more equally shared among the team.

Al Jazeera Interview: Pioneering mountaineer Reinhold Messner

Sherpa said that he and fellow sherpas cut down 20 trees and carried logs up the mountain which were then used as ladders to pass the treacherous Khumbu Icefall, just above the Everest base camp.

Peter, and Norgay's son Jamling, both now mountaineers, will join Queen Elizabeth II at a diamond jubilee event at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

Hillary, like many others in the mountaineering community, is now concerned about the commercialisation of Everest, which is more popular than ever but is also increasingly overcrowded and filthy.

Temba Tsheri Sherpa, an Everest veteran who now runs an expedition company, lamented the changes he has seen over time.

"Everest has turned into a playground for people with all sorts of interests," he said. "All they want is to set new records and they seem to be willing to pay thousands of dollars in order to fulfil their dreams".

This season alone 540 people reached the summit, including an octogenarian, the first female amputee, the first women from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and the first armless man.

But it was also marred by an unprecedented brawl between European climbers and Nepalese guides high on Everest, apparently sparked by a fight over climbing rights.

Other developments

Soldiers from the Nepalese and Indian armies have removed more than four tonnes of rubbish this season, although several junctions on the peak remain piled with garbage.

In another development, an 81-year-old Nepalese man abandoned on Wednesday his attempt to climb Everest, leaving 80-year-old Japanese mountaineer Yuichiro Miura with the record as the oldest person to scale the world's highest mountain.

A team member said that Min Bahadur Sherchan returned from Everest because weather conditions were worsening late in the spring climbing season for the Himalayas.

Sherchan was having financial difficulties and a government grant for his climb only came last week.

Sherchan had held the record until last week when Miura scaled the 8,850-metre mountain.


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