Mountaineers gathered to discuss their sport and the Himalayan environment during Mount Everest anniversary celebrations yesterday, and some remembered the more than 175 who died on the world's tallest mountain since it was conquered 50 years ago.
Some of the 100 Everest summiters attending Nepal's weeklong Everest golden jubilee traveled by bus for two hours yesterday to join local climbers in planting saplings at the International Mountaineers Memorial Park in the mountain town of Kakani.
Sir Edmund Hillary, 83, who was the first to climb Everest with his Sherpa guide, the late Tenzing Norgay, on May 29, 1953, led a parade through Katmandu on Tuesday. He planned to open an Everest photo exhibition yesterday and speak to the press about what his feat means to Nepal and the world.
The festivities culminate today with a ceremonial gathering of Everest climbers hosted by Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand, a tea attended by King Gyanendra and Queen Komal, and a banquet with the crown prince and princess.
All those who have summited Everest are guests of the government. That number has increased by 137 in the past week alone, though some of those may still be coming down from the mountain or may attend the party Hillary's son, Peter, is hosting on its slopes.
Sometime during all those feasts, Edmund Hillary said he would slip out for a separate dinner with members of the Sherpa community. The Sherpas helped the British expedition reach the summit in 1953, and Hillary has spent the decades since then building schools, hospitals and bridges in their mountain villages.
Tenzing Norgay died in 1986 and is being represented by his son, Jamling, also an Everest summiter, who said on Tuesday that the first Everest climb benefited mankind.
"They took a step farther into the unknown. They made known that it was possible for us to climb this mountain," Norgay told a press conference.
He runs a trekking and mountaineering business and campaigns for more recognition of the Sherpas who carry equipment, set the climbing ropes and ladders, and guide the Himalayan expeditions. He said the lesson taught by his father and Hillary is, "You can achieve anything you want if you work as a team."
Mountaineers drawn to Nepal for the anniversary have taken the opportunity to hold seminars and discussions about their sport, dangers to the Himalayan environment and the poverty of the host country.
"All of us who are approaching these mountains have a responsibility for preserving the local culture," said Rienhold Messner, an Italian who has climbed most of the world's tallest peaks and was the first to reach the Everest summit without using bottled oxygen.
He said Nepal has changed in the last decade "and it's not all our fault," noting that climbing expeditions are made possible only by the local porters who carry loads of up to 50kg of equipment and food up to base camp.
Yet because 40 percent of Nepal's 23 million people live in poverty, people must take such jobs to feed their families, Messner said.
Poverty has fueled an insurgency by Maoist rebels, who since 1996 have taken over several remote mountain areas and fought the army and police in a guerrilla war that has cost more than 7,000 lives.