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Tenzing Norgay ( May 29(?) 1914 – May 9, 1986) was a Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer. He and Sir Edmund Hillary were the first men to reach the summit of Mount Everest on May 29, 1953.

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Early Life
Success on Mount Everest
Family life
After Everest

Early Life - Contents

Tenzing grew up in a peasant family in Khumbu in Nepal, very near Mount Everest, which the Sherpas called Chomolungma. At the time he climbed Everest it was generally believed that he was born there, but in the 1990s it was claimed that he was actually born in Tshechu, now Tibet Autonomous Region, present-day China, but this was kept secret for political reasons.He was originally called "Namgyal Wangdi", but as a child his name was changed on advice from a lama ("Norgay" means "fortunate"). His father was Ghang La Mingma (who died in 1949) and his mother was Kinzom (who lived to see him climb Everest); he was the 11th of 13 children, most of whom died young.His exact date of birth is uncertain, but he knew it was late May from the weather and the crops. Later, he decided to treat May 29 as his birthday, as this was the date he climbed Everest.He ran away to Kathmandu twice as a boy, and eventually settled in the Sherpa community in Too Song Bhusti in Darjeeling ,West Bengal, India.

Mountaineering - Contents

He took part as a high-altitude porter in three official British attempts to climb Everest from the northern Tibetan side in the 1930s.Tenzing also took part in other climbs in various parts of the Indian subcontinent, and for a time in the early 1940s he lived in what is now Pakistan; he said that the most difficult climb he ever took part in was on Nanda Devi East, where a number of people were killed.In 1947, he took part in an unsuccessful summit attempt. An eccentric Englishman Earl Denman, Ange Dawa Sherpa, and himself entered Tibet illegally to attempt the mountain; the attempt ended when a strong storm at 22,000 feet pounded them. Denman admitted defeat and all three turned around and safely returned.In 1952, he took part in two Swiss expeditions led by Raymond Lambert, the first serious attempts to climb Everest from the southern Nepalese side, during which he and Lambert reached the then record height of 8,599 m (28,215 ft).

Success on Mount Everest - Contents

In 1953, he took part in Sir John Hunt's expedition, his own seventh expedition to Everest, in which he and Hillary became the first men to reach the summit. Afterwards he was met with adulation in India and Nepal, and even literally worshipped by some people who believed he must be an incarnation of Buddha or Siva.Tenzing and Hillary were the first people to set their feet on the summit of Mount Everest, but journalists were persistently repeating the question which of the two men had the right to the glory of being the first one, and who was merely the second, the follower. For anyone familiar with extreme mountain climbing such a question is nonsense and a non-issue, since two people tied to two ends of one rope work as a team, a unity, and they constantly take turns in leading.Hillary and Tenzing answered that question in characteristically different ways. In his book, Hillary described himself as the strong leader of the team, who not only was working hard making steps in the snow for both of them, but also had to pull Tenzing up those steps, and that Tenzing kept falling to the ground, extremely exhausted. Tenzing's account a few years later sounded very different: he stressed the unity of such teams and of their achievements, shrugged off the allegation of being ever pulled by anyone, but disclosed that Hillary was the first to put his foot on the summit. He concluded: "If it is a shame to be the second man on Mount Everest, then I will have to live with this shame".

Family life - Contents

Tenzing was married three times. His first wife, Dawa Phuti, died young in 1944. With her he had a son, Nima Dorje, who died at the age of 4, and two daughters, Nima and Pem Pem. His second wife was Ang Lahmu, a cousin of his first wife, they had no children but she acted as stepmother to his daughters. He took his third wife while his second wife was still alive, as allowed by Sherpa custom, and with her he had his son Jamling. Other relatives include his nephews, Gombu and Topgay, who also took part in the 1953 Everest expedition.

After Everest - Contents

Tenzing later became director of field training for the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling. In 1978, he founded a company, Tenzing Norgay Adventures, that offers trekking in the Himalaya. As of 2003, the company is run by his son Jamling Tenzing Norgay, who himself reached the summit of Everest in 1996. Tenzing died in Darjeeling (now Darjiling), West Bengal, India in 1986.
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