The sons of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa led celebrations in Nepal on Monday to mark the 70th anniversary of the historic first ascent of Everest. The scaling of the 8,849-metre peak on May 29, 1953, changed mountaineering forever and made the New Zealander and his Nepalese guide household names.
"In a whole lot of ways, it was not just Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay that reached the summit of Mount Everest, it was all of humanity," Peter Hillary said at a school founded by his father in the remote village of Khumjung at 3,790 metres. "Suddenly, all of us could go," he said.
And gone they have. In the past seven decades, more than 6,000 climbers have climbed the world's highest mountain, according to the Himalayan Database. It remains dangerous, with more than 300 losing their lives in the same period, including 12 this year. Five others are missing, putting 2023 on course to be a record deadly year.
As well as supporting tourism, the rapid growth in the climbing industry has raised revenue for Nepal, which today charges foreigners an Everest permit fee of $11,000. Family members of both the climbers joined locals and officials at the school on Monday morning to inaugurate the Sir Edmund Hillary Visitors Centre, housed in the original building, which opened in 1961.
Butter lamps were lit in front of a photograph of Hillary and Tenzing, and their sons, Peter Hillary and Jamling Norgay, cut a red ribbon to open the doors to the centre. A renovated museum also opened in Tenzing Norgay's name in Namche Bazaar, the largest tourist hub in the trek to the Everest base camp.
In Kathmandu, officials and hundreds from the mountaineering community joined a rally with celebratory banners. Top Nepali climbers, including the record holder for most Everest ascents Kami Rita Sherpa, were honoured in a ceremony.
Sanu Sherpa, the only person to climb the world's 14 highest peaks twice, called on the government to support the Nepali guides, who bear huge risks to carry equipment and food, fix ropes and repair ladders.
"The government has not done much for the Sherpa. I think it would be of great help and we would be happy if the government helps educate children of those climbers who died on mountains," Sherpa told AFP.