On May 29, 1953, 1130 local time, New Zealander Edmund Hillary and the Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, also known as the “Tiger of the Snows”, became the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest, 29,029 feet (8,848 m) above sea level on the Nepal-Tibet border. The two men stayed there for 15 minutes because they were low on oxygen. Mr Hillary took several photographs, while Tenzing buried some sweets and biscuits in the snow as a Buddhist offering to the gods. Tenzing died on May 9, 1986, and Sir Edmund Percival Hillary on January 11, 2008. Though the credit for the conquest of the Everest is always attributed to Edmund Hillary; however, the truth about who set foot on the mountain peak first lies buried forever after the death of the two legends.
Tenzing Norgay was born in the Kharta Valley, Tibet. His family was left destitute when their yaks were killed by disease and he was sold as a bonded servant to a Sherpa family in Thame in Nepal. At the age of 19, he eventually settled in the Sherpa community in Too Song Bhusti in Darjeeling. Tenzing never learned to read or write, but he spoke several languages. He was a simple man, who liked and understood life on a simple, straightforward level. Coming from a very poor background, Tezing’s main aim was to earn a livelihood, while, on the contrary, Sir Edmund Percival Hillary was looking for fame.
It is said that there existed a “pact” between the two climbers never to reveal the fact about who reached the peak first. The two agreed not to reveal the answer because in climbing terms, it was irrelevant for climbing a peak like Everest required two people. The humble reply of Tenzing whenever this question was put to him was: “If it is a shame to be the second man on Mount Everest, then I will have to live with this shame.” At another point in time, he said: “It was partnership - Ed and I, we together from start to finish.” Interestingly, Hillary only admitted being the first man to reach the top of the world’s highest mountain after the death of his climbing companion, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.
While Tenzing and Hillary were both knighted immediately; Tenzing was just given the George Medal. Today, only few remember Tenzing Norgay’s name because Edmund Hillary insiste
n The writer is a PhD in Information Technology, an alumni of the King’s College, London, and a social activist. He is a life member of the Pakistan Engineering Council and senior international editor for IT Insight Magazine. He has authored two books titled Understanding Telecommunications and Living In The Grave and several research papers.