Mount Everest And Its First Heroes: Hillary And Norgay

Mount Everest is located in the Asian Himalaya range. Himalaya means in Sanskrit "abode of the snow".
The Himalayas are the highest range in the Earth, being the Everest the highest mountain in the planet. Mount Everest separates Nepal from Tibet, and is also called "the top of the world".

Mount Everest is called Sagarmatha in Nepal (which means "Goddess of the sky"), and in China it's known as Chomolungma o Qomolangma Feng ("the mother of Universe").

This mountain was called Everest in honor of Sir George Everest (a British surveyor-general of India) in the year 1865. They were the British who sought for the highest mountain in the Earth, and that took them to the Himalayas. When they found that mountain, the Everest, always covered by the clouds because of its altitude, they knew they had found it. They did many measurements, and each time the mountain seemed to be more and more high.

The first British expedition to Mount Everest was in 1921 (from June to September). The second one was in 1922 and took from April to June. In 1924 there was another expedition in which 2 of its members disappeared: Andrew Irvine and George Mallory.

In 1953, Edmund Percival Hillary (who has died recently) from New Zealand, and the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the summit, which is 8,850 m high (29,035 feet). It was 29 May of 1953.

Edmund had already taken part in a previous expedition. He was a great adventurer (he also reached the South Pole). And he spent a big part of his life helping the Sherpa people from Nepal. Edmund created a foundation that built hospitals and schools in the most remote places of the Himalayas.

Edmund lost his first wife and his daughter in an airplane accident in Nepal. He married again, and his son Peter Hillary followed his steps, reaching the summit of the Everest two times.

In the commemoration of the 50 anniversary of the first ascent to the Everest, the government named Edmund Hillary as honor citizen. This way, he became the fist foreigner that has received this award in Nepal.

The Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who reached the summit with Hillary, had taken part of other expeditions to Mount Everest before that. But with Edmund he reached the success.
In 1974, Tenzing Norgay founded a business to offer his services to all the mountaineers and climbers that dream with reaching the summit of Mount Everest.

One of Norgay's sons also followed his steps and climbed the Everest in 1996: Jamling Tenzing Norgay.

As a curiosity, Tenzing Norgay has a monument to him, that represents the moment in which he reached the summit.

After that moment of reaching the Everest's summit for first time, there have been many more who got it. One of them is when the Japanese Junko Tabei climbed the Everest in 1975, being the first woman in doing that.

And in 1978, some explorers tried the first ascent without oxygen cylinders. In fact, the extreme conditions combined with the so high altitude make climbing very hard. The reason is that, the higher people ascend, the lesser the abundance of oxygen. So it requires a time of adaptation and a training, or using oxygen cylinders to add oxygen to blood in an artificial way.
A curiosity: when Hillary and Norgay where in a critical moment of their ascent, they found some oxygen cylinders belonging to a previous expedition.

After all these first pioneers, many people see Mount Everest like a goal to reach, and there have been are many expeditions, routes created...

It is the summit which is in the dreams of many mountaineers: the highest summit, to be at the top of the world.

-Emma Alvarez-

© 2008 by Emma Alvarez. Link to this post without copying the text.

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nepalwriter said...

I had the privilege of meeting Sir Edmund Hillary twice, once in Colorado and once in Namche in the Everest region where I used to lead treks to the base camp. He dedicated his life to helping the Sherpas who were such a critical part of his first ascent. Beyond the Summit is the first work to dramatize their lives in fiction. Hillary's work in the area is mentioned frequently as well as his climbing partner, Tenzing Norgay.
Details of Sherpa culture and religion are interwoven in a tale of romance and high adventure. The story has something for everyone: a love affair between an American journalist and Sherpa guide, conflict between generations as the modern world challenges centuries of tradition, an expedition from the porter’s point of view.

Below are selections from reviews. To read the complete ones and excerpts go to [www]

Beyond the Summit, is the rare gem that shows us the triumphs and challenges of a major climb from the porter’s point of view. The love of two people from diverse cultures is the fiery centerpiece of a novel that leads its readers through harshly beautiful and highly dangerous territory to the roof of the world. Malcolm Campbell, book reviewer

Conflict and dialog keep this gripping story of destiny, romance and adventure moving from the first page to the last paragraph. LeBlanc has a genius for bonding her readers and her characters. I found I was empathizing in turn with each character as they faced their own personal crisis or trauma.
Richard Blake for Readers Views.

A gripping, gut-twisting expedition through the eyes of a porter reveals the heart and soul of Sherpas living in the shadows of Everest.

A hard-hitting blend of adventure and romance which deserves a spot in any serious fiction collection. Midwest Book Review

LeBlanc is equally adept at describing complex, elusive emotions and the beautiful, terrifying aspect of the Himalayan Mountains. Boulder Daily Camera

LeBlanc’s vivid description of the Himalayas and the climbing culture makes this a powerful read. Rocky Mt News Pick of the Week

A rich adventure into the heart of the Himalayan Kingdom. Fantastic story-telling from one who has been there.

This is the book to read before you embark on your pilgrimage to Nepal. The author knows and loves the people and the country, and makes you feel the cold thin air, the hard rocks of the mountains, the tough life of the Sherpa guides, and you learn to love them too. This is a higly literate, but also very readable book. Highly recommended.”
– John (college professor)

Memorable characters and harrowing encounters with the mountains keep the action moving with a vibrant balance of vivid description and dialogue. Literary Cafe Host, Healdsburg, CA

This superbly-crafted novel will land you in a world of unimaginable beauty, adventure, and romance. The love story will keep you awake at night with its vibrant tension and deep rich longing. Wick Downing, author of nine novels

Such vividly depicted images of the Everest region and the Sherpa people are the perfect scenario for the romance and adventure feats narrated. It’s a page-turner, so engrossing you end up wanting to visit Nepal! Not just novel, but perfect for those seeking to get acquainted with the culture of this country.
By Claudia Fournier (América, Bs. As., Argentina)

Available through Barnes and Noble, Borders,,, and the web site

Emma Alvarez said...

Thank for sharing your experience and recommend us that interesting book.

I'm very lucky for having so incredible readers.

Vladimir said...

I am looking at climbing everest from a an effort perspective. Anyone who climbs Everest should have a statue built in his/her town. It is like going to the moon.

I have a friend who did it last year and I am preparing an interview with her soon.

Emma Alvarez said...

Vladimir, I, one time, climbed a mountain that was about 1700m high and I could see clouds under me. What a sensation...

When your friend makes the interview, send me it by email :)

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