Book review: ‘Tenzing and the Sherpas of the Everest’ by Judy and Tashi Tenzing

first_imgTenzing and the Sherpas of the EverestBy Judy and Tashi Tenzing Harper CollinsTrying to get a grip on why men climb mountains is an exercise in extremes: the public is either told “because they are there” or is hit with tomes full of raging blizzards, frostbitten fingers and the meaning,Tenzing and the Sherpas of the EverestBy Judy and Tashi Tenzing Harper CollinsTrying to get a grip on why men climb mountains is an exercise in extremes: the public is either told “because they are there” or is hit with tomes full of raging blizzards, frostbitten fingers and the meaning of life.There are a rare handful who can turn the activity into artistic and commercial success – no airport bookshop or pavement book vendor is complete without Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air.MOUNTAIN COUPLE: Norgay with his wife Ang Lhamu in Rosenlaui, Switzerland, in 1953But for the most part, writing about climbing is easier than climbing itself; which means unlike the exercise itself, there is enough room for many who do it badly. Like the commercialisation of the Everest climb, the mountaineering-writing industry too has led to its own pile of unwieldy debris.For most part also, the industry has remained Euro-centric and concerned itself with the agonies and ecstasies of the foreigner who arrives at the foot of the world’s mightiest mountains with a view to “conquering” them, before being humbled into realising the errors of his ways.In this trauma-ridden genre, Judy and Tashi Tenzing’s book is a breath of clean air. It is part biography of Tenzing Norgay and part social history of the Sherpas whose links with the Himalayas lie deeper than those who stomp up and down its slopes for sport.Click here to EnlargeThe book, written by Tenzing’s grandson and his wife, places Tenzing as the man who was able to bridge two cultures and embrace both views of the mountains: the eastern, which worshipped the lofty peaks because they considered them the homes of the gods, and the western, for which the mountains were physical and mental challenges.The book is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of the Everest in 1953. Jan Morris described it as “the last innocent adventure”. Today, the Everest is an industry that spins in the dollars; but Nepal has begun to spin out an environmental crisis.advertisementAs fascinating as the story of Tenzing and what the Everest climb did to his life is the book’s compassionate account of the Sherpa people.The 20th century has transformed them from a rural community that provided load carriers to the “sahibs” to one that has an opportunity, through mountaineering and tourism, to empower their future. The mountains remain, after all, the abode of benign gods.last_img

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