Nepal puts on glad rags for conquerors
Tens of thousands of Nepalese lined the streets of Kathmandu on Tuesday to cheer a festive procession of some 400 conquerors of Everest from 48 countries, among them the man who blazed the trail 50 years ago, Sir Edmund Hillary.
Led by musicians playing traditional Nepalese instruments, the procession wound through colourful sectors of the capital as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations marking the first conquest of the world's loftiest peak on May 29, 1953.
Hillary and his wife June, along with 85-year-old Gyalzen Sherpa -- a member of the successful 1953 expedition -- travelled the route in an open carriage of the Royal Nepalese Army drawn by two white horses.
Behind them in another horse-drawn carriage were Junko Tabei, the first woman to the top of Everest; Jamling Norgay, son of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, who with Hillary was first to stand on the summit; and Pemba Dolma Sherpa who has climbed Everest from both the Nepalese and Tibetan sides.
Others who have made it to the top of Everest followed on foot, cheered on by passersby and groups of school children wearing special ribbons designed for the Golden Jubilee celebrations.
The capital has been adorned with bunting and banners to mark the festivities, which culminate on May 29 with a symposium and the presentation to all Everest summiters of medals by King Gyanendra.
Tuesday's procession began from the Royal Army pavillion in the city centre and snaked through the streets to the historic Bantapur and Thamel localities, where, before the ancient temples of Mahadev and Parvati, the Everest heroes were presented on behalf of the people of Kathmandu with copper plaques by the municipality's acting chief executive S.K. Sharma.
By conquering Everest, Sharma said, the alpinists had put Nepal on the world map and helped to develop tourism.
Hillary in response paid tribute to the "warmth and generosity" of the people of Nepal.
"This is a great honour that you are doing us today," he said. "Today has been a fantastic celebration of the warmth of the people of Nepal for the mountaineers who have climbed the great Mount Everest.
"Thanks to you and thanks to Nepal for your warmth and your generosity."
Hillary also paid tribute to Tabei and to Reinhold Messner, the Italian alpinist who in 1978 with Austrian Peter Habeler summited Everest without supplementary oxygen, and two years later climbed the gigantic peak totally alone.
"It is a double blessing to have the man I admire almost more than anyone else, Reinhold Messner, in our midst," Hillary said.
Jamling Norgay, meanwhile, said he was "grateful to the people of Nepal for presenting so much honour to my father."
"I have no words to express my joys and pleasure," Jamling Norgay said.
His father, soon after he reached the summit with Hillary, settled in the northeastern Indian city of Darjeeling and took Indian citizenship. He died of natural causes in 1986.