Jamling Tenzing Norgay at a friend’s New Alipore house on Wednesday. Picture by Sanjoy Ghosh
Tenzing Norgay may have climbed Mt. Everest “so that my children wouldn’t have to”, but son Jamling did just that a decade after his death.
“All my life my father pushed me away from the mountains,” recalled 48-year-old Jamling, in town for Infocom, the ABP Group’s information and communication technology conclave.
“The most he taught me was rock climbing, that too only to increase my exposure. Rather, he insisted that I get a good education,” he told Metro on Wednesday.
So when the teenaged Jamling yearned to be part of the first Indian mixed-gender expedition to Everest in 1984, Tenzing’s response was a “No!”
He was packed off to the US to study business management instead.
On Friday, Jamling would be speaking at Infocom about his experience of climbing Everest in 1996, 10 years after his father died. “Relatives told me that my father used to say that among all his children, I would be the one to follow in his footsteps. But he did not want to put any pressure on me to climb,” said the author of Touching My Father’s Soul, an insight into the Sherpa’s world.
On his return from the US, Jamling climbed smaller peaks in Sikkim and Nepal. So when the chance came to set off for Everest in 1996, he was ready. “It was a dream team that included Ed Viesturs, who was attempting his fourth Everest summit, the first time without oxygen,” the 48-year-old said.
It was an extraordinary trip also because the team was followed by an IMAX film crew. “The camera itself weighed about 22kg. We would climb, wait for the light to improve, film and then carry on,” Jamling recounted.
That year turned out to be the riskiest climbing season ever, with at least eight deaths recorded in a day. “I was already married with children. My wife later made me promise that I would never go climb mountains again,” Jamling said.
He did return to Mt. Everest, but only till the base camp, when he and Edmund Hillary’s son Peter were invited to be part of an expedition in 2002 to mark the 50th anniversary of the first ascent.
“I still climb smaller peaks. Climbing develops character, trust and teamwork — qualities needed in the corporate world,” said the mountaineer, whose company takes people on trekking expeditions in the Himalayas.
According to him, scaling Everest today is “as different as night is from day” compared to when his father and Hillary did.
“They were the pioneers. Now the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee sets up the route and all you got to do is follow it. Of course, one should never take the mountain for granted. Still, this is allowing lesser climbers to achieve their goals. The number of climbers needs to be restricted for safety in the higher altitudes,” Jamling said.
He knows what he is talking about. On that May day in 1996 when eight persons died, ”about 45 people had been attempting summit, triggering a delay that led to the climbers getting trapped in a fatal blizzard”.