It is the greatest mountain chain in the world. It is the majestic Himalayas (Abode of Snow House). It stretches over some 3,500 km and covers about 1,000,000 sq km of surface area between Afghanistan and South China. Approximately 800 km of the Himalayas is in Nepal, including eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks, with Mt. Everest (8,848 m) being the highest in the world. Over 1,300 peaks of the Nepal Himalayas are over 6,000 m high. This magnificent range of mountains overlooking deep valleys, sprawling pastures, and bustling Sherpa villages is the highlight of mountain tourism in Nepal.
The Himalayas is a dramatic demonstration of tectonic forces; the strong Indian continental shelf subducting beneath the weaker Tibetan shelf and pushing up the Himalayas, thereby creating the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest. It stands as a natural boundary between Nepal and Tibet, with its surroundings extending into Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal in the south and Chomolungma Nature Preserve of Tibet (China) in the north. Its Nepali name is Sagarmatha (forehead reaching the sky); its Tibetan name is Chomolungma or Miyo-Langsangma; its English name is Everest, in honor of the former Surveyor General of India, George Everest (1887-1900).
On 29 May, 1953, Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the summit at 11:30 a.m., climbing the South Col route. They created history, becoming the first to conquer the highest peak on Earth. Things were never the same again as far as the Nepal Himalayas were concerned. Since that first summit, Mt. Everest has recorded over 5,100 ascents, with more than 3,200 climbers reaching the top. The next two after Hillary and Tenzing to summit were Swiss climbers Ernst Schmied and Juerge Marmet (May 23, 1956). Three Chinese mountaineers, Wang Fu-chou, Konbu, and Chu Yin-hua, became the first climbers to summit from the north side (May 25, 1960). Nawang Gombu, the 10th summiteer to conquer Everest, also became the first to summit twice (1963, 1965). At the same time, a significant number of climbers, about 250, have also lost their lives trying to conquer Everest.
The men’s domination in climbing Everest was finally broken 22 years after the first ascent, on May 16, 1975, when a diminutive Japanese woman, Junko Tabei (born Sept 22, 1939), climbing from the South-East Ridge route, became the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. In May 1993, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa (born Dec 10, 1961) became the the first Nepali woman to reach the top of the world, but sadly, she lost her life during the descent due to adverse weather. Another Nepali woman climber, Pemba Doma Sherpa, became the first Nepali woman to climb Everest via its north face in 2000 as leader of the “Millennium Everest Expedition”. She achieved her sixth ascent in 2007, thereby becoming the record-holder for most successful attempts by any woman. Sadly, she too lost her life in the mountains, when she fell from a height of 8,000 m while descending Lhotse, the world’s fourth highest peak. On May 24, 2003, fifteen-year-old Ming Kipa Sherpa climbed from the Tibetan side to summit Everest, and became the youngest person in the world to achieve this terrific feat (recorded in the 2009 Guinness Book of Records). Her sister Lhakpa Chiri is the only woman to have climbed Everest thrice, twice from the Tibetan side, and once from the southern side. She ascended the world’s tallest peak for the third time on May 22 2003, 50 years after the first conquest by Tenzing and Hillary.
The challenge of conquering Everest has not diminished over the years, and it is every mountaineer’s dream to stand on its summit one day. Yes, the risks are great and the environment can be unpredictable, but that has not deterred courageous men and women from daring to climb the world’ highest peak in the Nepal Himalayas.