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Of mountaineers, records & Everest

world Updated: May 24, 2010 01:46 IST
Hindustan Times
Edmund Hillary

Ever since they entered the record books 57 years ago, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's feat of reaching the top of Mt. Everest has been repeated by thousands of mountaineers.

But despite hundreds dying in their attempts, Mt. Everest and other major Himalayan peaks still attract thousands more to try and scale them and push the boundaries of endurance and ability further.

On Saturday, within a space of few hours Jordan Romero, a 13-year-old American, Arjun Bajpayee, a 16-year-old Indian and Nepal's Ang 'Super' Sherpa scaled the world's highest peak.

Romero became the youngest person to climb Mt. Everest, Bajpayee the youngest Indian and 20 years after scaling the peak for the first time, Sherpa rewrote his record by climbing the peak for the 20th time.

Such is the rush to beat others and be the youngest, oldest, fastest, etc, etc, that mountaineering in the Himalayas has become more of a mechanical exercise and the charm associated with such climbs diminishing.

Old-timers say mountaineering has become more and more commercial and the camaraderie among mountaineers is becoming a thing of the past as each try to outpace the other to the summits.

"Mountains are not runways where you can show others that you are the fastest. If you only go up fast and come down, you get no time to think, to see the beauty," says Kurt Diemberger, the first person to climb the dangerous Dhaulagiri (8,157 metres) in May 13, 1960.

A very popular mountaineer, author and photographer, the Austrian who has also scaled Broad Peak and Mt. Everest was in Nepal this month to mark the 50th anniversary celebrations of the first Dhaulagiri ascent. Diemberger misses the old times when mountaineers used to sing at the camps while attempting to scale the peaks.

"Now people have stopped smiling and singing and European mountaineers are the most serious of them all," he says.

The 68-year-old wants those rushing to the mountains to understand the dangers well and train accordingly if they wish to stay away from the increasing list of casualties in the Himalayan peaks.

"Mt. Everest and the other 8,000 metre plus mountains are serious mountains. They don't forgive one wrong step," he warns.

Diemberger has this message to those heading to Nepal to scale the Himalayan peaks — "Take your time, don't rush."

Is anyone listening?