Before the days of big corporate sponsorship and instant Youtube fame, a young Tibetan man of Sherpa origins, Tenzing Norgay, quietly climbed the biggest mutha-fucka mountain of all, Mount Everest. He was driven simply by curiosity, wonder and the friendship of co-climber, Edmund Hillary.
The two men became the first recorded humans to reach the summit of Everest, which may as well have been the moon in those days, given its unfathomable height and physical impossibility. Many had already failed to reach planet earth’s coveted penthouse, including Tenzing himself, who had been employed as a high-altitude porter on several expeditions.
But it was on May 29, 1963, in dangerously ball-shrinking temperatures, that Tenzing and Hillary literally stepped on top of the world, enjoying 15 minutes of transcendental fame. Only one photo was taken of this historic moment, featuring Tenzing alone. Unfortunately, no picture was taken of Hillary at the summit, as Tenzing didn’t know how to use a camera.
“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 adjusted to his new ‘famous’ life with grace, yet it was not always easy for him. He had suddenly become a political symbol, which involved him unwittingly in controversies he didn’t understand or care about. He was a simple man who liked and understood life on a simple, straightforward level.
Tenzing Norgay was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
Text by Howard Collinge- The Unique Creatures