I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life
“Several people kept telling me that his death means the end of an era,” Sir Edmund Hillary said with a wry smile, at Tenzing Norgay’s funeral. "They forget that I'm still here."
On May 29th, 1953, the New Zealand mountaineer reached the summit of the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest. But it was a feat he could not have achieved without his Tibetan-born guide, sherpa and companion on the journey, Tenzing Norgay.
An experienced climber, Tenzing had already accompanied other mountaineers hoping to conquer Everest before Sir Edmund’s successful attempt.
Norgay might have become a Buddhist monk, but sent to train in a monastery, he realised it was not his destiny. He was only 20 when he was picked by climber Eric Shipton to take part in a 1935 Everest expedition.
There no photo-record of Norgay and Sir Edmund at the top of Everest. Norgay later said that he’d motioned to Sir Edmund suggesting he took the mountaineer’s picture, but this was declined. It’s said that when they reached the top, Sir Edmund went to shake Norgay’s hand, but Norgay dispensed with the formality and went in for a bear hug.
Although they never took a selfie, the mountaineers did take photos looking down from Everest, to prove to a hero-welcoming world that they’d reached the summit. Their achievement won Sir Edmund his knighthood, while Norgay received the George Medal, awarded for gallantry.
Norgay became the first director of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and went on to establish his own trekking company.
He was cremated on a sandalwood pyre at the Mountaineering Institute, a place he’d loved, where a memorial now stands in his honour and climbers pay their respects.