That even in the midst of the most vicious election to which India has been condemned, sections of the media found “space” to report an accomplishment on Mount Everest was a refreshing reminder that dirty politics have not permanently obliterated an appreciation of the finer things in life.
True that the world’s highest peak was first scaled way back in 1953, and since then some 4,000 people have emulated Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary in ascending the summit, yet every successful climb continues to be hailed as a “conquest”. And hence the universal community of mountaineers has gone ecstatic over Kami Rita Sherpa enhancing his own world record earlier this week by recording his 23rd ascent.
Not that the man who earns his living guiding climbers up the mountains has an obsession with records ~ until recently he did not know he “held” the world record ~ for like all true professionals he believed he was merely doing his job to the best of his ability. With some 370 climbers hoping for success using the Nepal (southern) route to Everest this pre-monsoon season (another 140 have opted for the northern route through Tibet), Kami Rita and his fellow Sherpas know they have hard work ahead.
And must strive to emulate illustrious forbears like Tenzing, Nawang Gombu, Pertemba Sherpa, Pasang Dawa Lemba etc. The greatest reward for those hardly men of the hills is that almost all the world’s most accomplished climbers ~ Hillary, Mallory, Irvine, Messner, Bonnington etc have no hesitation in saying that without the support of the Sherpas they may never have attained their heights of glory.
“Because it is there” the legendary Eric Shipton had declared when asked why men (and women) climbed a mountain. And though there are a few other 8,000-metre peaks, Everest (Sagarmatha, or Chomolunga, as it is also known) has a fascination that has not dissipated with time. Technological developments in the shape of high quality clothing and climbing equipment have not diminished the rare thrill of standing on Everest’s peak.
Nor has Bonninghton’s quip that it was no longer difficult to forge a route to the mountain; “just follow the garbage trail” he had remarked. A few climbers have been to the top more than once in the past, but only a couple of Sherpas can claim repeated success. So Kami Rita Sherpa’s getting up for a 23rd time scripts a new saga in the snows.
He is now 49 years of age and has only limited number of “seasons” ahead. Yet his example will inspire other Sherpas, who are reluctant to try their luck at other professions. Edmund Hillary had devoted a good part of his post-Everest life to working for the welfare of the Sherpa folk, the subsequent generation of mountaineers should do likewise. The Indian community of climbers must play a lead role ~ the Himalayas are theirs too.