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Tenzing Norgay- The first sherpa to climb Mt. Everest

tenzing-norgay-with-edmund-hillary

Tibetan by birth, Nepalese through work, and Indian by choice, Tenzing Norgay is a name that is known far and wide for his expedition to the world’s highest peak- Mount Everest.

Tenzing Norgay was born in Tshechu, Tibet, to Ghang La Mingma and Dokmo Kinzom.

Tenzing Norgay, also called Tenzing Norkay by some, was born in late May 1914; however, the date is unknown. It was after his successful summit to Mount Everest on May 29, 1953, that he decided to celebrate his birthday on May 29.

Tenzing Norgay- Family

His father, Ghang, was a yak herder, whereas his mother, Dokmo, was a housewife who lived to see Norgay summit Mount Everest.

His original name was Namgyal Wangdi. He changed his name following the advice of the head monk, Ngawang Tenzin Norbu.

He married Dawa Phutti in 1935 in Darjeeling. He was 19 and settled in a village named Tungsung.

He had a son named Nima Dorje with Dawa Phutti and two daughters named Pem Pem. Sadly, Nima died at the age of 4. Pem had a son named Tashi Tenzing, who climbed Everest just like his grandfather.

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After his first wife’s passing in 1944, Tenzing Norgay married his first wife’s sister, Ang Lhamu. Ang Lhamu adopted her sister’s twin daughters.

Norgay also married another wife, Dakku, while his second wife was still alive as polygamy was allowed in Sherpa customs. Dakku and Norgay had three sons– Norbu, Jamling, and Dhamey and one daughter– Deki.

Tenzing Norgay- Childhood

Tenzing Norgay went to Nepal as a child to work for an affluent Sherpa family in the Khumbu region. He grew up there till his teenage years.

In his late teens, he ran away to Darjeeling, India.

Tenzing Norgay with his wife and two daughters

Tenzing Norgay- Mt Everest Expedition

Tenzing Norgay entered the mountaineering world when he was 20 years old.

He was encouraged to join the Mount Everest expedition team by his friend, Ang Tharkay, a Sherpa Sirdar (guide) on the 1933 team. Norgay’s attractive smile immediately attracted Eric Shipton, who was the leader of the 1935 British Mount Everest Reconnaissance expedition, and so he was hired.

In the 1930s, he participated as a high altitude porter in three official British attempts to climb Everest from the northern Tibetan side. He was a part of other climbs of Indian subcontinents as well.

From the early 1940s, he started living in Chitral and became a personal airman/servant to Major Chapman. Norgay’s first wife died during this time in Chitral, so he returned to Darjeeling.

He continued his process of summiting Everest. In 1942, he officially became a sirdar for a Swiss expedition right after his heroic rescue of Sirdar Wangdi Norbu, who had fallen and had been seriously injured.

By 1952, he had already taken part in two Swiss expeditions to climb the Everest from the Southern Nepalese side. Norgay, along with Raymond Lamberd, reached 8,595 meters and then held a record for 8,600 meters.

The 8,600 expedition was an honorable one to Norgay. Due to this, he had an excellent relationship with his Swiss friends.

In 1953, Norgay met Edmund Hillary for the first time in John Hunt’s expedition. After he saved Hilary from hitting bottom due to a fall into a crevasse, Hillary only trusted Norgay to be his climbing partner.

charles evans, edmund hillary, tenzing norgay, tom bourdillion and george band

Tenzing Norgay- Controversy

Tenzing and Edmund reached the peak of Mount Everest, the highest point on earth, in May 1953 at 11:30 AM. Even though both were the first people to reach the peak, the first person to set foot on top was a major topic of discussion.

Tenzing ended the discussion by revealing that Edmund Hillary stepped his foot on the peak and stepped up after him.

Tenzing Norgay- Career

Later in his career, he became the first director of Field Training at the Himalayan Institute, Darjeeling, in 1954.

In 1975, he served as Sirdar for the first American tourist party allowed in Bhutan.

He founded his own company, Tenzing Norgay Adventures, in 1978.

The company provided trekking adventures in the Himalayas. Currently, the company is run by his son Jamling Tenzing Norgay.

Tenzing Norgay- Awards

  • Tiger Medal for high altitude work by the Himalayan Club in 1938.
  • Awarded the George Medal and the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal in 1953.
  • In 1953, he was awarded by King Tribhuvan the Order of the Star of Nepal– 1st Class (Supradipta-Manyabara-Nepal-Tara).
  • In 1959, Norgay was awarded the Padma Bhushan Award, the third-highest civilian award of India.
  • In July 2015, an 11,000 feet mountain range on planet Pluto was named Tenzing Montes.

Sadly, Tenzing Norgay died on May 9, 1986, at 71 years of age, in Darjeeling, West Bengal, due to cerebral hemorrhage. His remains were cremated at his favorite point– Himalayan Mountaineering Institute.

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