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Friday, 30 May 2014

Ran away from home twice, sent to be a monk; but ended up becoming one of the first to climb Mt. Everest!!!

It has been a long road ... From a mountain coolie, a bearer of loads, to a wearer of a coat with rows of medals who is carried about in planes and worries about income tax.” - Tenzing Norgay



Tenzing Norgay OSN GM (late May 1914 – 9 May 1986), born Namgyal Wangdi and often referred to as Sherpa Tenzing, was a Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer. Among the most famous mountain climbers in history, he was one of the first two individuals known to have reached the summit of Mount Everest, which he accomplished with Edmund Hillary on 29 May 1953. He was named by Time as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.


His exact date of birth is not known, but he knew it was in late May by the weather and the crops. After his ascent of Everest on 29 May, he decided to celebrate his birthday on that day thereafter. His year of birth according to the Tibetan Calendar was the Year of the Rabbit, making it likely that he was born in 1914.

He was originally called "Namgyal Wangdi", but as a child his name was changed on the advice of the head lama and founder of the famous Rongbuk Monastery, Ngawang Tenzin Norbu. Tenzing Norgay translates as "wealthy-fortunate-follower-of-religion". His father, a yak herder, was Ghang La Mingma and his mother was Dokmo Kinzom; he was the 11th of 13 children, most of whom died young.

He ran away from home twice in his teens, first to Kathmandu and later Darjeeling. He was once sent to Tengboche Monastery to be a monk, but he decided that it was not for him, and departed. At the age of 19, he eventually settled in the Sherpa community in Too Song Bhusti in Darjeeling.

Tenzing got his first opportunity to join an Everest expedition when he was employed by Eric Shipton, leader of the reconnaissance expedition in 1935. As a 20-year-old his chance came when two of the others failed their medical test. Tenzing took part as a high-altitude porter in three official British attempts to climb Everest from the northern Tibetan side in the 1930s. He also took part in other climbs in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. 

In 1947, he took part in an unsuccessful summit attempt of Everest. Canadian-born Earl Denman, Ange Dawa Sherpa, and Tenzing entered Tibet illegally to attempt the mountain; the attempt ended when a strong storm at 22,000 ft (6,700 m) pounded them. Denman admitted defeat and all three turned around and safely returned. In 1947 he became a sirdar of a Swiss expedition for the first time following a magnificent performance in the rescue of Sirdar Wangdi Norbu who had fallen and been seriously injured. The same year he climbed Kedarnath peak in the western Garhwal Himalaya – the first ascent of the peak.

In 1952, he took part in the two Swiss expeditions led by Edouard Wyss-Dunant (spring) and Gabriel Chevalley (autumn), the first serious attempts to climb Everest from the southern (Nepalese) side, after two previous US and British reconnaissance expeditions in 1950 and 1951. Raymond Lambert and Tenzing Norgay were able to reach a height of about 8,595 metres (28,199 ft) on the southeast ridge, setting a new climbing altitude record. The expedition opened up a new route on Everest that was successfully climbed the next year. 

Tenzing Norgay and Raymond Lambert reached on 28 May the then-record height of 8,600 metres (28,200 ft), and this expedition, during which Tenzing was for the first time considered a full expedition member ("the greatest honour that had ever been paid me") forged a lasting friendship between Tenzing Norgay and his Swiss friends, in particular Raymond Lambert. During the autumn expedition, the team was stopped by bad weather after reaching an altitude of 8,100 metres (26,575 ft).


In 1953, he took part in John Hunt's expedition, his own seventh expedition to Everest. A member of the team was Edmund Hillary, who had a near-miss following a fall into a crevasse, but was saved from hitting the bottom by Tenzing's prompt action in securing the rope using his ice axe, which led Hillary to consider him the climbing partner of choice for any future summit attempt.