Tenzing Norgay (1914-1986) 'First' to reach 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."
When Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest in 1953 with Sir Edmund Hillary (New Zealand), he had no idea how his life would change. From that moment on Tenzing was the ambassador for his people, the high altitude Sherpas of Darjeeling and the Khumbu. Although he spoke seven languages, Tenzing never learned how to write; however he produced several books by dictation, which provide a everlasting account of an era when the high Himalayan frontiers were still unexplored.
Mount Everest, the world's largest mountain, was finally scaled by Norgay and Hillary on May 29, 1953. The mountain, which Tibetans call Chuomo-Lungma (Mother Goddess of the World), had defeated nine previous attempts, including the ill-fated Mallory-Irvine expedition of 1924. Working with the very latest equipment (portable radio, advanced oxygen systems), Norgay and Hillary approached the mountain successfully from the south-west. They left the Union Jack, the Nepalese flag and the flag of the United Nations on the summit.
There was much political intrigue after Tenzing's ascent, as the Nepalese government wanted him to claim he was Nepalese and the Indian government wanted him to say he was an Indian citizen. In fact, he was both, born in the one and raised in the other.
Another controversial issue was: Who was really the first man to beat Mount Everest? Edmund Hillary or Tenzing Norgay? For years, both men insisted that it was a fully joint effort and they got there together: "We climbed as a team, period". But after several years the honest Sherpa admitted: "Hillary stepped on top first. And I stepped up after him".
Sources: PBS Nova Online, History of the 20th Century, Time.